Tablets – the end of the PC or just another gadget?

Sales of tablet devices are growing consistently, and are expected to eclipse sales of PCs, including notebooks, in the next few years.

July 1, 2013

By Francois van Wijk, HP PSG Business Unit Manager at DCC

Mobility is currently a major trend and a hot topic among businesses, with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and Smartphone/tablet hybrids, known as phablets, allowing people to work on the move from any location. Sales of tablet devices are growing consistently, and are expected to eclipse sales of PCs, including notebooks, in the next few years. Cloud solutions allow users to access their information and media across devices, and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, which allows employees to bring their choice of devices into the workplace, has further spurred a move towards a mobile workforce. However, the question remains – will the tablet spell the end for the PC and notebook market? Or are these devices simply another gadget in an arsenal of tools that allow users to access content from anywhere, adding functionality but never truly replacing the functionality and power of a full-blown computer?

Research house Gartner recently released a report predicting that tablet sales will overtake PC sales by 2015-2016, and according to International Data Corporation (IDC), in 2012 there was a year on year increase of 78,4% in sales of tablets, driving a 29,1% growth in internet-connected devices. According to IDC, by 2017 there will be around 350 million tablets sold that year, with an expected 1,5 billion in Smartphone sales, and in 2013 it is expected that Smartphone sales will overtake feature phones for the first time ever. These figures clearly show that tablets and smartphones are experiencing phenomenal growth, and there is no doubt that both devices offer the user many benefits.

These do-it-all devices allow users to work, play and access content on the move, no matter where they are, as long as they have an Internet connection. They also enhance productivity, as they are less cumbersome than a laptop computer and are beginning to incorporate many of the same features and functionality. Tablets are even being produced with the same operating systems as a PC, such as Windows 8, which provides a consistent experience across devices, and tablets with USB ports can easily be connected to a keyboard, monitor and mouse when at a desk, to deliver a more office-like feel.

With all of these features, and none of the drawbacks of carrying around a cumbersome computer, it is easy to see why more and more users are adopting tablets in favour of a PC. However, one of the biggest drawbacks of the tablet is its lack of processing power when compared to a computer, especially for use in an office environment. This is something that can easily be remedied however, as many tablets are compatible with available docking stations, which add ports such as HDMI, VGA, memory card slots and additional USB ports, giving them the power to be used effectively in an office environment the same way a PC or notebook would be used.

However, this docking solution does not entirely address the ability to work effectively while out of the office. One option for users that want the convenience of a lightweight, mobile device and the power of a PC, is the ultrabook, another sector that is experiencing rapid growth. While tablets are perfect for consuming content, accessing media and providing flexible, always-on connectivity, ultrabooks are geared more towards the serious business user who requires lightweight, practical personal computing, enabling the user to both create and consume information and process large volumes of data.

While tablet sales are increasing rapidly, the trend appears to be that these devices are not replacing PCs or notebooks, but rather augmenting users’ collection of gadgets. Many users already own a computer, and wish to bolt on the mobility functionality with a tablet, something which is made all the more possible given the ease of sharing documents across the devices in the cloud. There are many different types of technology users, and each device is designed for a specific application. For all of their benefits, tablets do not spell the end of the PC just yet, and there is room for both in today’s market, particularly when ultrabooks are factored into the equation.