Home Mobility 2016: A Tablet Odyssey, displacing the notebook space?

A prediction of tablets displacing notebook shipments by 2016 is no oddity, but the latest prediction from online prognosticators.

With notebook shipments reportedly suffering today, in 2012, due to the popularity of tablets, and most notably the iPad, it should come as no surprise that analyst forecast firm NPD says tablets “are expected to be the growth driver” for mobile PCs “over the next few years”.

It’s also no surprise to see NPD using the words “such as Apple’s iPad” after the words “Tablet PCs”, so strong is Apple’s current grip on the tablet market, despite the imminent arrival of the Google Nexus 7 tablet and Microsoft’s own Surface Tablet.

The details are over at NPD’s “Display Search” site, but it doesn’t mean the death of notebooks as the predictive figures show: while NPD thinks that tablet shipments will indeed outpace notebook shipments by 2016, it expects the entire mobile PC market – which includes tablets and notebooks – to reach 809 million units by 2017.

That’s expected to be 416 million tablets in 2017 and 393 million notebooks for that 809 million total.

While pundits like to talk about the expected growth in East Asian markets, NPD says that it’s the “mature markets” – those in the US, Canada, Western Europe and Japan – that will not only account for 66% of shipments this year, but “will remain in the 60% range throughout the forecast period” – handily outpacing East Asian growth.

Expected features of future tablets includes “instant-on capability, long battery life, extreme portability, multi-core processors, better operating systems and higher resolution displays”, thus making them “compelling alternatives” to traditional notebooks.

However, by 2017, notebooks are expected to only be 49% of the market by 2017, giving tablets that magical 50 + 1 % of democratic supremacy.

That said, tablets such as Microsoft’s Intel-powered Surface Tablet will certainly muddy the waters between exactly what is a notebook PC and what is a tablet – especially so if the Surface Tablet model really takes off as Microsoft clearly hopes it will.

Indeed, the Surface Tablet PC is, to me at least, far more exciting than Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, despite what will be an obvious major disparity in screen size and price between the two.

The ultimate thing to remember with NPD’s “forecast report” is that it is just that: a forecast report. I’m sure there are plenty of reports that suggested Windows Mobile 6.x would still be selling in big numbers today if we go back far enough into the past, and we all know that’s clearly not the case.

So, take all those analyst predictions with a few big grains of magic quadrant salt, but do nevertheless factor them into your own equations.

Meanwhile, ask yourself what you think your next two or three mobile PC purchases will be over the next few years, and whether that will be a tablet PC, a notebook PC… or both – even if that means, like the Surface Tablet, or some future MacPad Air hybrid, that you’re getting “both” in the same unit.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.


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