The rise of the tablet: But the empire strikes back

The rise of the tablet: But the empire strikes back

13 August 2012 | 3:48 pm

In 2008, laptop sales finally overtook desktop PCs as the computer of choice.

As the world became more mobile, consumers and businesses adapted by moving away from a static computer chained to their desk because it was not conducive to their wants or needs.

Today, businesses are mainly buying desktop PCs, but their market share has shrunk considerably. And while the notebook/laptop has been the main catalyst for its demise, they too are under threat by a new player on the block: the tablet, or slate.

Smaller, lighter, app-friendly, a touch screen and a host of storage options has seen the tablet grow exponentially over the past two years. In 2011, the uptake grew over 100 per cent to 73 million units sold, compared to 34 million in 2010. Urged on by Apple’s marketing machine and its iPad, other vendors, including the likes of Samsung, Blackberry, Google and Microsoft, have not been shy in hitching their wagon to this gravy train.

However, before we consign the notebook/laptop/netbook to the dustbin of PC history, some vendors are fighting back, and it’s not just the manufacturers, but those who provide the components such as the processors, who are leading the charge.

In almost a show of braggadocio, at the beginning of 2011 processor manufacturer Intel designed the ultrabook concept, which at its most basic is a laptop with a much smaller form factor – and by small, I don’t mean in size, but in weight and width of the components. What’s more, they are packing these ultrabooks with enough features and oomph that they are going to give their big brother laptops and notebooks a run for their money. The other big processor manufacturer, AMD, is also getting in on the action with its new Trinity processor designed for “thin and light” portable PCs.

So why buy an ultrabook when a tablet should do? Well, while a tablet looks the goods, there are flaws. For a start, the most storage you can get is 64GB, and then you have to start expanding using a variety of storage options, which means spending more money. Also, if you want the full laptop experience you’ll have to invest in a keyboard and mouse.

With the ultrabook, you not only get a full keyboard, you also get the virtual version due to the touchscreen capabilities of the latest Windows 8 operating system. Other factors that need to be taken into consideration are that ultrabooks have a much faster boot up time than laptops have had in the past, they have a longer battery life and have eco features that save on power.

The one thing that tablets have going for them, above and beyond portability when going up against ultrabooks, is price. If vendors can bring the price of ultrabooks down, and the plan is that they will, things will get really interesting. Some manufacturers produce both – Samsung being one – to ensure they have a foot in both camps to hedge their bets.

With the market for these products set to only get bigger – predictions are that this year more than 180 million tablets alone will be sold – there is scope for all portable PCs. However, if you’re in the market for a new super-portable PC and were thinking tablet, take a few minutes to check out ultrabooks too.

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Comments (1)

  1. 1
    anonimouse75

    Every type of computer has its place. The desktop is always going to be where the cutting edge technology is – just because it’s so easy to interchange components. Laptops are useful for when you need a full featured PC that is also portable – try doing some high-end processing on a tablet… For places where high-portability is needed, tablets have that niche, but with the reduced processing power (which is fine for a lot of applications.) Smart phones are good for the ultra-portable but, again, at a reduced processing power and storage.

    I believe no one type will usurp any other, just redistribute what there is out there.

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