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Based on the tremendous sales made by Apple’s iPad and trends in users’ preference for PC, one may want to argue that the tablets are the future of PC, However, a new report by Forester confirms otherwise.

From the report of sales made by both Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s iPad (which is sold almost as well as the iPhones), it is recorded that Window’s PC sold just over 89 million in the Christmas quarter of 2010 (based on averaged figures), which was a little short of the 92.9 million sold in the previous quarter. It is quite obvious that there is a downward slide, which may be as a result of Apple’s iPad that was launched a few years ago.

Bob O’Donnell, program vice-president of IDC was quoted as saying “While attempting to blame the decline completely on the growth of the media tablets, we believe that other factors including extended PC lifetimes and lack of compelling new PC experiences, played equally significant roles in the decline of sales”. PC enthusiasts are now forecasting that an uptick in sales may be expected by the release of Windows 8, which is expected in October as a “semi-finished” version was earlier released.

On comparing such forecasts with those made earlier, it becomes clear that the PC market is on a downward trend and only one reason readily comes to mind: The Tablets.

Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has made regular forecasts on how the PC market will pan out, predicting how emerging markets (South America, south-east Asia) and mature ones (North America and Europe) will fair in the sales of desktops and laptops based on reports from June 2011, September 2011 and March 2012.

Figure 1:  IDC’s Forecast For PC (Source: Guardian)

One isn’t really surprised by the decline in the sales of the desktop due to the transient nature of the market and the caprices in consumer demands. It has been forecasted (Forrester) that by 2016, around 376 million tablets will be sold globally in addition to the 760 million, which is already in use. In comparison with 2011, where 56 Million were estimated to be sold, an astonishing 46% compound increase is expected.

Gillet, a Forrester Analyst gives a pointer as to the reason for this increase. He says, “Tablets will become our primary computing device, because although they aren’t the most powerful computing gadgets, they are the most convenient”. He continues by stating that handiness, battery life, always-on capability and ease of use make the tablet a “PC for the future”.

When asked if this trend will kill the PC? He says No. It is believed that new technologies do not generally kill off old ones, they just slow them down. It is estimated that there will be 2 billion PCs in use by 2016, despite the emergence of the Tablets. This has been attributed to the fact that tablets only partially cannibalise PCs. It will slow down the sales of laptop and consequently increase the sales of desktop PCs. You may ask “Why”? Because the industry will still need conventional PCs for demanding jobs that cannot be carried out by a laptop and requires a large display and significant processing power.

It has been reported that “tablets will blossom in growth markets, particularly China” and this should be of concern to Microsoft as their traditional Windows licensing business on PC have since believed south-east Asia and China as the promise land despite the huge impact of piracy in these regions. Forrester believes that the emerging markets will be responsible for 40% share of tablets by 2016 and Apple products will also thrive based on its brand appeal and the strength of its product. It also believes that new users in search for a computing device will rather buy a tablet than a PC.

These predictions have been corroborated by Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook. He talked about how the sales of the iPad had ramped up over the past few months: “Through the last quarter, I should say, which is just two years after we shipped the initial iPad, we’ve sold 67 million. And to put that in some context, it took us 24 years to sell that many Macs, and five years for that many iPods and over three years for that many iPhones.”

With these revelations, one can only wonder what the Future of the PC will eventually be.

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