Tablets are changing tech market forever

July 15, 2012

And now it’s the hottest category and the one segment our clients always want to talk about. 

I've been writing and speaking at events on this theme for a few years now but I truly believe that tablets are the inflection point that is bringing about the re-birth of the technology industry.   

If you think about the last 15 or so years of computing the clamshell notebook form factor has been relatively unchanged. One of the reasons for this, among many, was the maturation of the PC industry.  

Notebooks needed to be standardized and many innovations were focused on packing lots of technology at affordable prices. However, the use cases, form factors, and software remained relatively unchanged.   

Now there is a new era upon us and tablets are leading the charge. By all conservative estimates we will sell around 65-70 million tablets in this calendar year. 

I tend to believe that is low especially in light of the 7" market, which will be focused on media and entertainment more than general purpose computing. When we size up the overall market opportunity, we are convinced it is big–and bigger than people think. 

No other argument for its growth may be stronger than the rapid adoption of tablets by consumers and enterprises alike. The tablet, and specifically the iPad, is the fastest adopted piece of technology we have ever seen, with sales possibly hitting 100 million devices sold in 2013 or possibly before. 

One thing that is fascinating to watch from my view as an industry analyst is how rapidly enterprises are adopting tablets. I remember when the iPad first came out and how no one really believed that it was a viable competitor to traditional computers.  

How quickly that has changed with many now, including myself, believing that the tablet form factor represents the future of mainstream computing.  

In a recent CIO survey from Morgan Stanley, the following data points came out:

– 72% of CIOs currently purchase tablets for their employees, up from only 53% less than a year ago.

- 75% of respondents are planning to purchase tablets within the next year, up from 64% in October 2011.

- CIOs continue to expect to grow the percentage of employees for which tablets are purchased from 9% today to 14% in a year.

I make a distinction between computers that will suffice for the mainstream and computers that will cater to specialty markets.  

In the case of the enterprise, tablets will only replace notebooks for perhaps their most mobile workers. For example, those in marketing, sales, field force automation, etc., all may be candidates to switch to tablets. However, in both consumer markets and enterprise there will always be a role for a desktop or notebook.

For the mainstream consumer market, which doesn’t really do processor intensive tasks often with their notebooks or desktops, the tablet will suffice.

In fact, more than 60% of the consumers we interview state that they may not buy a new notebook at all and just commit to tablets. These consumers have recognized that their needs with computers are relatively limited and many believe a tablet is all they really need for the majority of their computing tasks.  

This does not mean they won’t necessarily keep a desktop or notebook around but rather that it may not represent their primary computer.

Regardless of how the market segments between desktops, notebooks, and tablets, I still remain of the opinion that tablets represent the most exciting form factor moving forward.  And with the recent news around Surface and perhaps even the 7” tablet segment, we are already seeing rapid evolution around the tablet form factor. I fully expect that we still haven’t seen everything this new form factor has in store. 


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