I have encountered some individuals that believe tablets are something of a fad. Claims like “they aren’t real computers” and “they don’t do everything” are often used as “evidence”. Granted, the most popular tablet, the iPad, still doesn’t handle Flash, but the use of Flash appears to be slowly declining. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of sites the rely on Flash. But the use of Flash aside, the iPad’s continued growth and dominance seems to be a strong indicator that tablets are going to be an important part of the computing landscape.
Tablet vs. PC Sales
Take two pieces of recent data: iPads were a key part of recent sales growth, which saw overall tablet sales increase 124% in the most recent quarter. The iPad itself was up 162% over the previous year. The other is disappointing news for Dell, which saw sales slip in the most recent quarter, resulting in a 4% decline in revenue. The drop is apparently attributed to increased sales of tablets, primarily iPads.
It is no surprise that tablets are on the increase while the traditional PC market appears to be in a bit of decline. Tablets are functional enough for most people, offer superior portability and better battery life. The apps tend to be easier to use, mainly because they are designed for the device. The apps are meant for touch use, and they are built for the limited resources a tablet has to offer. This isn’t to say that PCs will disappear entirely. Far from it. What I expect to see is that tablets will basically start to occupy the low-end of the spectrum, one previously reserved for netbooks (which tablets have appeared to have displaced) and for entry-level notebooks. There are times where you still need a big screen and a real keyboard.
Moving Into The Mainstream
Tablet growth hasn’t been limited to just the consumer market. There are more tablets appearing in the enterprise, and the education market is starting to see real potential. Just being able to reduce the cost, and increase the portability and interactive nature, of textbooks is a huge leap forward. The iPad appears to be the dominant player in the space. But there is one bit of rumour that may cement the iPad as the dominant tablet in the market.
A rumour has appeared that Microsoft will be releasing a version of Microsoft Office for the iPad in November. There has been rumbling about some kind of version of Office for iPad before, but supposedly this one has a more reliable source. Of course, this may all depend on how Windows 8 and the tablet version of that product does. If Windows 8 tablets start to fly off the shelves, then there may not be that much pressure for Microsoft to adopt the iPad as another platform. However, Windows 8 faces some challenges, primarily the rather sparse touch-enabled app catalog it will have initially. Using non-touch apps in a touch-based environment can be far from satisfying, and downright frustrating at times. It is a question mark, to be sure.
Tablets Now Part Of the Pantheon
Ultimately, tablets are now part of the pantheon of computing, occupying a space “above” smartphones, but “below” notebooks. They have displaced the netbook to some degree, and are a viable form of computing for most mainstream users. No, they aren’t a substitute for mid-range and high-end notebooks or desktops. There are some tasks that still work best on large or multiple screens, with other pointing devices. But they are appropriate for what a large portion of the casual computing population does: browse the web, interact with Facebook and Twitter, and play some games. I just don’t see them as a fad.