In the world of technology, change happens quickly. The cutting-edge can become the obsolete in the blink of an eye, and that has never been truer than it is today. The explosion in popularity of tablets could one day soon render the once-dominant laptop and PC obsolete.
According to NPD DisplaySearch, tablets will surpass laptop sales by 23 million, shipping 416 million units by 2017. One must bear in mind, though, that around 121 million units will be shipped this year, meaning tablet shipments will grow by more than threefold in just four years.
This shouldn’t be expected to slow by any means, either, as the processing speed and capabilities of tablets are growing exponentially. To understand the rapidity of this shift, it’s important to compare apples to apples (no pun intended). The only real differences between a laptop and tablet lie in the hardware; their functionality is the same for all intents and purposes.
The only features a laptop has that a tablet does not are a larger hard drive, a keyboard, a disk drive and maybe some accessory ports. Many of these features no longer hold any value, though. With the expansion of cloud computing, solid memory is no longer a necessity for most users. Neither is the keyboard, as it’s been integrated into the touchscreen interface.
Most devices can connect with the few ports tablets do have, so they too are out. The average computer user checks email, goes on the Internet, watches movies, etc., all of which can be done more portably and conveniently on a tablet. So, the question isn’t really if tablets are going to take over, it’s how soon.
The markets for tablets are growing at a mind-bending rate. Asia, with its huge, emerging middle class, is poised to eclipse North America in tablet sales in the coming years, according to marketing research firm Strategy Analytics. With such large populations comes large numbers of consumers, and since many tablets are priced lower than laptops (for the most part), they’re the logical choice for emerging markets.
Overseas and domestically, tablets are taking over in the business world, too. Because of their portability and flexibility of use, tablets have become commonplace everywhere from Fortune 500 companies to restaurants. Of course, many niche industries will still demand large machines with high processing capabilities, but the numbers don’t lie, tablets are on their way up.
The truth is, though, that comparing tablets to laptops is a bit like comparing PCs to mainframe systems of the ‘60s. The natural progression of technology and demand has organically led to the minimalist design of the tablet seen today, not some unseen competition between technological forms.
It’s been more of a metamorphosis than anything; laptops have grown smaller and smaller until they finally shed their keyboards to become tablets. There’s no doubt that their dominance in the market will continue to grow, and if Apple CEO Tim Cook said to Forbes, “I truly believe, and many others in the company believe, that there will come a day that the tablet market in units is larger than the PC market,” then it’s probably worth noting.