“The Mac is still growing, and I think it could still grow, but I strongly believe that the tablet market will surpass the unit sales of the PC market.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook said that at a Goldman Sachs conference several months ago. Cook has been one the industry’s most vocal proponent of tablets as the future of modern computing, and recent statistics support his argument. According to new data, traditional notebook computers will take a backseat to tablets in four years. By 2016, tablet shipments are estimated to surpass notebook shipments.
“Consumer preference for mobile computing devices is shifting from notebook to tablet PCs, particularly in mature markets,” said Richard Shim, senior analyst at NPD DisplaySearch. “While the lines between tablet and notebook PCs are blurring, we expect mature markets to be the primary regions for tablet PC adoption.”
Notebook PC shipments (including products like the new MacBook Air and Pro) are expected to increase from 208 million units this year to 393 million units by the beginning of 2017. Tablets like the iPad will increase from 121 million units annually to 416 million units in the same timeframe. Tablets are also expected to improve “in form factor and performance” and become even more viable notebook alternatives.
“In addition, notebook PCs are also evolving to meet the challenge from tablet PCs,” said Shim. “Thinner form factors, higher resolution displays and touch functionality features are expected to increase. The notebook PC market will remain the largest part of the mobile PC market during the forecast period, accounting for 60% of mobile PC shipments in 2012, declining to 49% by 2017.”
Tim Cook famously said earlier this year that Apple “invented the modern tablet.” Cook has been open about the fact that the iPad has cannibalized not only PC sales in general, but Mac sales too. Think about the 65-year-old woman who only uses the computer for browsing and email, or the teenager who only needs a device to check Facebook and watch YouTube. The iPad is more than enough. Many use the iPad for content creation as well. Desktop and notebook computers are becoming less and less needed by the average consumer.
It will be interesting to see when tablets like the iPad are included with desktop PCs in analyst forecasts and market share analysis. What separates a “tablet” from a traditional “personal computer?” The former is merely a continuation of the latter.