Indications are such that tablet PC, a device much junior to the personal computer, will soon replace the traditional form in developed countries thanks to its mobility, ease of use and size. With tablets taking the driver seat, it is feared that the role of the PC could soon be limited to emerging markets and may become museum pieces in the West.
Yet, it is not all over for the PC. The emerging markets have a very low PC penetration and even when other devices are available, there will be takers for the PC. Share of the emerging markets are expected to rise from just over 50 percent in 2011 to nearly 70 percent in 2016.
Mature PC markets are expected to continue to be replacement market-driven and their volumes will be much less compared to emerging market counterparts.
The biggest advantage of the tablet is its mobility. It becomes ideal for executives and students alike, enbling them to access notes from the bus or standing in a queue. Citing Taiwan-based supply chain makers, Digitimes said early this month that global demand for tablet PCs will rise to 130 million units in 2013, possibly exceeding that for desktops.
In 2011, global tablet PC shipments touched 60 million units and Apple accounted for 40 million units. Tablet PC shipments worldwide are expected to reach 90-95 million units this year.
While tablets lured customers by thousands, the traditional PC market could not keep up its growth pace. According to IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, PC market is also facing challenges from slow economic conditions and competition from other consumer electronics, including media tablets, eReaders and mobile phones.
The IDC projects that annual 2012 shipments will increase 5.4 percent, followed by growth in high teens during the first half of 2013 and annual growth over 11 percent.
Gartner said in January that worldwide PC shipments in 2011 grew just 0.5 percent from 2010, with the weak consumer PC market, particularly in mature markets, becoming a major contributor to this stagnation. Emerging markets grew steadily, driven by low initial PC penetration.
Again, Gartner said early this month that it expects PC shipments to grow 4.4 percent in 2012 and sees higher growth by the end of 2013. "The use of applications such as e-mail, social networking and Internet access, that were traditionally the domain of the PC, are now being used across media tablets and smartphones, making these devices in some cases more valued and attractive propositions," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.
But Gartner believes that reign of the PC as the sole corporate access device will come to a close. The firm is of the view that by 2014, the personal cloud will replace the personal computer at the center of users' digital lives.
According to Gartner analysts, "the personal cloud will begin a new era that will provide users with a new level of flexibility with the devices they use for daily activities, while leveraging the strengths of each device, ultimately enabling new levels of user satisfaction and productivity."
The revolution began with Apple Inc. (AAPL) when the technology giant launched iPad in early 2010. Apple called it a magical and revolutionary device that can be used for "browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books and much more."
iPad featured 12 next-generation multi-touch applications. It was just 0.5 inches thick and weighed only 1.5 pounds - thinner and lighter than any laptop or netbook. Updations of the device followed periodically and the latest version with Wi-Fi + 4G went on sales on March 16, making it the most successful launch among the three generations of the product.
Many other companies such as Samsung and Research in Motion followed iPad and came out with tablet offerings. While iPad has several competitors, none has been able to match its popularity and saleability and it commands nearly 60 percent of the tablet market.
PC makers are now attempting to head off the tablet challenge with a new generation of lighter, more powerful PCs. Ultrabooks, the super-portable laptops with souped-up computing power, were all the rage at CES 2012. With Intel leading the way, competitors of Apple are lining up to compete with the MacBook Air. Ultrabooks will be sized between 11 and 15 inches.
by RTT Staff Writer
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