Are we witnessing Laptop and PC Extinction?

In the computer world, a race has been set up by the iconic Apple iPad which made its debut on Saturday 3rd April 2010, now in its Second iteration, as described in my previous article “Apple iPad 2 – dual-core Easy Skankin’”.

According to statements uttered at the Apple iPad launch on March 2nd 2011AD, (Apple iPad 2 Day for you Apple hating phoebes!) Apple Inc CEO Steve P. Job stated that the Apple iPad is heralding what he referred to as the “post-PC era”

Very strong Microsoft Directed words, sir!

Now backed up by some statistical data that indicates a general decline in projected PC shipments for the first Quarter of 2011 compared to 2010 that may continue on for 2011!

Analysts Gartner  reported in April 2011 a 1.1%  decline in Worldwide PC sales in the First Quarter of 2011 compared to the First Quarter of 2010. Thus far worldwide PC shipments have eclipsed eighty three million three hundred thousand units (84,300,000) during the First Quarter of 2011.

IDC , also in April 2011 fleshes out more details, with statistics that indicate only 3.2% dip in PC shipments in the First Quarter of 2011 compared to the first Quarter of 2010, worse than 1.5% growth IDC had projected for 2011.

Their numbers are somewhat similar to Gartner in the PC sales in the First Quarter thus far, with eighty million six hundred thousand (8,600,000) units being shipped which of course is a lower number for the quarter than expected. To wit:

  1. Hewlett-Packard’s shipments were down 2.8%
  2. Dell’s shipments were down 1.8%
  3. Acer’s shipments were down 15.8%

Lenovo and Toshiba were the only exceptions, seeing shipments increase by 16.3% and 3.8% respectively.

Even TV’s are beginning to feel the pinch, with Google owned analyst AdMob in April 2011 declaring it was also encroaching on HDTV on sales as well!!

Among other results, AdMob gleaned that:

  1. 77% no longer used their Laptop or PC
  2. 43% devoted more of their time to their Tablets than PC or Laptop
  3. 33% said the consumed more content on their Tablets than via television

These Analysts statistical data are a strong indication of this “post-PC era” prediction by CEO Steve Jobs, albeit not yet a smoking gun, as no crime has been committed by the nascent burgeoning Tablet market.

We may have to wait until the start of the London Olympics 2012 to see who the casualties are going to be.

But at the time of its launch, futurists who declared the Death of the Laptop, Netbook and PC with dreamy eyes had little more than assumptions as to this as-then-unknown-product’s success.

That and the words of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who at the First Generation Apple iPad’s initial launch on February 27th 2010AD had declared, quote: “Netbooks aren’t better than anything. They’re just cheap laptops”.

So like astronomers searching for Intelligent life, these people, whom I shall refer to as bloggers and journalists, turned to the statistical analysts “stars” [ComScore, Nielsen, Gartner, IDC, et al] for evidence to give them something further of which to dream and justify any of their ill-placed faith in this now “magical” of products and its ability to kill Windows based Laptops and PC’s.

CNET News Reporter Lance Whitney, in April 2010, the Year of the Apple iPad, wrote what many thought about the First Generation Apple iPad and Apple Inc. true ambitions: A Netbook killer.

If anything, Apple’s official line of their product being an e-book reader competitor for the lucrative Book market was a clever deception, as the Apple iPad has over time, proven to be, among other things, an accelerant of the sales of the Amazon Kindle and e-books – and E-Book Piracy as pointed out in my article “Piracy and E-Books in a Tale of Two Cities”.

When CNET News Reporter Lance Whitney penned his ditty in April of 2010AD, a mere few days after the launch of the Apple iPad, he had little more than assumptions in his excitement gilded article.

But that evidence to bring the support came sooner than expected.

IDC had declared that Netbook shipments from January through March 2010 of the First Quarter of 2010 were expected to grow by some 33.6% or 4.8 million units. This is considerably slower growth than the First Quarter of 2009, when Netbook sales leapt 872%, to 3.6 million units.

My first nail in the coffin of the Netbook!

IDC analyst Richard Shim explained it best, quote: “Everyone tried to make these mini-notebooks out to be a different category, or different type of device. In fact, people think of them [Netbooks] as just another type of PC.”

In English: Market saturation had begun to reach this had already over-hyped product segment or “cheap Laptops” as Apple CEO Steve P. Jobs styled these WinTel machines after only two (2) years on the Market.

This is what makes Apple Inc visionary: They saw the coming tidal wave or demand for a new product and dissatisfaction which the analysts only then began document evidence or its existence, that being a pent up demand for a revolutionary product.

The Netbook was on the way to the Emergency Room. This as talk of the Netbook being obsolete began being whispered and bandied about in September 2010 by Maynard Um of analyst UBS Investment Research.

This plucky analyst predicted Apple iPad sales in 2011 of twenty eight million (28,000,000), with fifty two million (52,000,000) if rumours of a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) version were to be made for Verizon panned out.

This as the First Gen Apple iPad launched back in 2010 was an AT&T only affair, which quickly changed to include Verizon and boost the sales of Mi-Fi Hotspots as chronicled in my article “Samsung Galaxy – Apple iPad’s Contender for the Christmas” about the Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

The Samsung Galaxy Tablet at the time was the sole contender in lead-up to the lucrative Christmas 2010 buying period, which garnered profits for the company who is an armourer [component supplier] for Apple.

The Christmas 2010 period provided more ample evidence of the Apple iPad effect. With evidence this time coming straight from a PC Manufacturer: Micron. The Netbook maven Micron, reported in November of 2010 less than stellar Laptop and PC sale projections for Christmas 2010 and the First Quarter of 2011.

As if that was not bad enough, Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn announcement of a 50% slump in NetBooks and Laptops sales in his Best Buy Retail chain. So ruffled were the feathers of the PC manufacturers that he had to modify his statements to save the PC and Laptop Manufacturers face.

My second nail in the coffin of the Netbook!

At that point, the Apple iPad command an impressive 95% of the Tablet market with the 5% being the Samsung Galaxy Tablet based on numbers crunched by Strategy Analytics.

Analyst Gartner in November 2010 added the finishing touches by prognosticating that the Apple iPad and Tablets would displace about 10% of the PC Market by 2014, a statistically significant amount of Tablets in a potential market of nearly four hundred million (400,000,000) customers.

This as no other product had succeed to flesh out their ambitious plans for Android-based Tablets by November 2010, opting to wait on the development of Honeycomb, the latest iteration of the Google successful Android Platform for Mobile phones.

Yes you read that right: PC’s are being displaced by a portable Tablet device.

First ever, as Laptops and PC was always a separate market segment, sharing borders in customer minds but never cannibalizing each other territory.

Customers were told to opt for one device for the home [PC] and one computer device for travel on the road [Laptop, Netbook, smartphone].

Then CNET News Writer Brooke Crothers even speculated on this phenomenon after a J.P. Morgan Wall Street Analyst named Christopher Danely bearish forecasts based on the anxiety of investors expressed over lackluster Intel and AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) sales.

So the predictions as stated at the very start of this article are right on track: Netbooks are being made extinct.

But the PC? Is the PC also being cannibalized?

What’s in the market is making people even forego PC purchases in favor of a Tablet?

With statistics providing the evidence, Logic fills in the blanks. The Tablet is basically a screen packing a Dual-Core Processor and a touch-centric keyboard. Most people are not Touch-centric, which is a completely different ball of wax from touch-capable.

The fact that the Tablets promise ten (10) hour battery life due to its utilization of SSD (Solid State Drives) which also results in faster boot times and Instant-on operating characteristics, the same buzz that sells the MacBook Air as per my article “MacBook Air and FLASH-based Hard Drives: The Quest for Instant-On”, making it better than a Laptop or Netbook in terms of performance.

Mathematically, this is expressed: SSD’s = Lower operating temperatures + better performance at lower processor speeds.

Thus, the pragmatic explanation for the Man of the House walking over to the isle in Best Buy wishing to buy a Tablet – and his Wife and Kids pulling him aside to the Lingerie Section, hoping to deceive him into buying that pair of shoes as well.

Fret not Retail store! Like the Terminator, He’ll be back!!

As for PC, it has to do with the design of Docking Cradles, which allow the Tablet to dock with either a Laptop shell built into a case for the less touché-centric among the society. Even some early designs of Tablets are really Laptops with a thinner profile, such as the Dell Inspiron Duo.

Note: a keyboard that slides under the screen to make a Tablet, or the screen folds about a horizontal axis as in the case of the Dell Inspiron Duo. NOT a vertical axis as in the case of the now ticker and dead and very hefty Tablet-PC, which are NOT Tablets.

Docking cradles can also turn Tablets into a PC, a prime example of which is the only Microsoft Windows Tablet released in 2010AD, the Indiapolis 500-inspired HP Slate 500. This Tablet comes with a docking cradle that turns the Tablet into a virtual Boombox.

Albeit this is a rudimentary Docking Cradle with Bluetooth and speakers, it is nonetheless hints at what is driving customer interest in Tablets: its ability to be the device you want, when you want.

Customers realize the despite lacking the computing power and prowess of their Core Duo or GPU-CPU Sandy Bridge counterparts, Tablets still manage to get the job done as it relates to the basic stuff you want right now.

Like browsing the Internet, Social Networking, watching video and downloading on the go via the various Wireless Broadband options available.

Normal stuff that normal people do!

Not specs obsessed Techies and Engineers who like faster Processors and better graphics versus Better performance, weight, thickness, texture, colour  and Battery Life overall, the MAIN concern of normal people.

Engineers, Technicians and Tech enthusiasts aka Techies are not normal people, folks!

Still, the twelve (12) plus hours battery life, the higher performance thanks to SSD’s and the Transformer-esque promise that a Docking Cradle brings to make the Apple iPad and other Tablets into a Laptop or a PC as required is more than attraction enough for the Mother of the household to finally give in to her husband in exasperation and indulge in purchasing a Tablet.

But Mom has the last laugh as the cash register ring up the Credit Card.

‘Cause it will save Mom money on the cost of buying everyone something separate for everyone, from the kids at High School and College to the Father that is the biggest Kid and Dreamer of the bunch.

Thanks also to the common Ecosystem on most of the Tablets, sharing content is made easier. And it also gives families the opportunity to embrace a device category that is the future.

Plus, the kids already saw it on TV. Darn that Cable TV!!

Oh well, with the Apple iPad and its ilk, the Cable TV may be replaced by Broadband that can be Wireless networked into the house. Thus the Kids and Dad can stream and watch their favourite channels on their own individual Tablets.

“Bye, bye Cable Provider”, says mom, becoming hip to the trend of cord-cutting.

So Mom rolls her eyes and looks embarrassed as her children and the Father, the supposed head of the house, now ALL acting childlike with glee, lift their Tablets in air, overjoyed shouting “The PC is Extinct; Long live the Tablet!!”

Mother says No. But Apple and the coming horde of Tablets for the London Olympics 2012 – and the rest of the family – says Yes!

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.

1 Comment

  • I’m not sure if we can sound the death knell for PCs yet. To me, the idea of pc’s being “wiped out” is a matter of perspective. Since PC’s used to sit at a desk, or in a study room or something, they tended to be more localized pre-broadband internet. The world is simply seeing that that now, “most” people don’t need a bunch of horsepower to just use Youtube or surf the internet. But a tablet is a form of computer, as is a smart phone, smart TV’s etc. I see it more as a fragmentation of what already existed.

    I think once tablets are enabled with much better type sensitive online keyboards that function well, then many people might not need a PC… but I don’t think we are ready to run down that road just yet : p

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