Tablets: Rise of the Machines

IDC just published their latest PC sales forecast and what caught my eye is that netbooks had dropped as a percentage of PC sales (desktops, laptops, netbooks) from 22% down to 12% last year and slowed even more the first part of this year.  This year, netbook unit sales are expected to be in the 40 million unit range which is about 75% to the expected unit sales of 38-40 million iPads and 14.5 million Android tablets in 2011.
A number of industry pundits have dismissed the tablet as a replacement for the netbook because they believe consumers are looking to replace their laptops and tablets just don’t have the same level of functionality (keyboards/text entry, printing, word processing/office applications).  However, the opposite may be true as evidence by the released sales figures.  Consumers were purchasing netbooks to augment their laptops/desktops for other members of the family (spouse, children) for email, web browsing, school research, mobile entertainment and are now looking at tablets.  Tablets are replacing those type of netbook purchases due to the fact that both form factors currently play in the $300 to $500 range, the tablet’s instant-on capabilities and familiar interface (most have iPhone or Android smartphones).  As developers begin to invest more heavily in creating tablet-based applications (rather than super-sized smartphone applications), the rise of tablet sales and the subsequent demise of netbooks may become even more pronounced.

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Perry Hoekstra

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