Tablets to crush notebooks in 2013 as PCs become trucks


The argument over whether tablets should be classified as PCs could soon be moot. Shipments of devices such as Apple’s iPad are expected to overtake notebook PCs in 2013. The cause: tablet (iPad) shipments are growing by double-digit percentages while PC demand is falling off a cliff – even in emerging markets…

According to NPD DisplaySearch, 240 million tablets will ship this year, topping 207 million notebooks. Fueling demand for tablets is a widening number of tablet choices, as well as growth of even smaller devices.

NPD writes:

The tablet market has been led by Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad, but in 2013 a new class of small tablets will overtake the market. Tablet PCs with 7-to-8-inch screen sizes are expected to account for 45 percent, or 108 million units of the market in 2013, overtaking the 9.7-inch size, which will account for 17 percent share or about 41 million units.

Although the iPad currently dominates tablet sales, more competitors should increase total tablet shipments by 64 percent this year. Both North America and China will lead the transformation of tablets as the No. 1 computing platform. Both regions in 2012 shipped more tablets than PCs, according to NPD.

The findings echo Steve Jobs’s famous ‘trucks’ analogy and predictions from the D8 conference in 2010.

When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular.

Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars. PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people.

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This year, North America should account for 35 percent of tablet shipments, equating to 85 million units. China should have 27 percent of the market, accounting for 27 percent of shipments.

Worldwide tablet PC shipments by screen size. Source: NPD DisplaySearch.

In a sign of how quickly the tablet market is growing, six months ago, the research firm had forecast it would be 2016 before the devices topped notebooks. Different tablet sizes and prices in North America “drove rapid market expansion”, analyst Richard Shim said.

In 2013, further investments are expected worldwide, stoking demand to the point that tablet PC shipments will exceed those of notebook PCs.

As we reported in November, the iPad was seen as slowing the usual PC replacement cycle, adding up to two years to the usual time companies purchase updated computers. The forecast comes on the heels of one analyst’s prediction that the iPad’s domination of tablet sales could end by 2015.

As we reported Tuesday, Apple’s marketshare is expected to drop to around 50 percent as rival tablets enter the picture. However, Apple has fine-tuned its supply chain to the point where profit should not measurably fall. Indeed, it could be rivals offering tablets below $200 that have difficulty.

Along with being forced to make smaller and smaller devices with more and more cutting-edge technology, iPad competitors will face the inevitable decline in the average selling price. At $199, how far can Amazon’s Kindle Fire or Google’s Nexus drop before their tablets are earning no profit?

In the end, while Apple’s marketshare may be dented by increased competition, the rise of tablets over PCs will be welcome news for the executive suites in Cupertino.

Was Jobs right?

Are PCs really gonna be like trucks?