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iPad's Popularity Is Hurting PC Sales

Hype of a “post-PC era" may be coming true—at least partly.

I'm thinking an iPad 2 might be the way to go for mom. She's 86 and, despite several computer classes for seniors, she's always getting into trouble on her PC.

Software asks her if she wants to update it, and then the installation screens intimidate her. Once, she accidentally locked the screen but didn't know the password to unlock it.

Sometimes she can't find the poem she was working on the day before, or somehow the default printer setting gets changed so she can't print.

It's always something.

iPads, on the other hand, seem simple and well adapted to what she uses her PC for: Checking email, surfing news sites on the Web, composing poetry and prose for writing groups and workshops.

It seems like it would be a lot less intimidating to her, and the portability means she wouldn't go weeks without checking her email when she visits San Diego.

And if it's right for mom, it might be right for another 45 million to 60 million people this year. Those are crazy numbers, but they're what analysts are tossing around for iPad sales predictions for 2011.

When the original iPad was introduced a little more than a year ago, I told friends I thought it was just a niche device—something people might keep on their coffee tables to access email and the Web while watching TV. I mean, who needs an oversized iPhone?

I just don't have the vision thing that Steve Jobs has. I'm skeptical by nature and have never been a big fan of Macs. And there's the hype, always the hype.

The hype for the iPad: With its introduction, we're now entering a post-PC era, according to Jobs.

Alas, the hype is proving at least partly true. Not only has Apple made tablet computing viable, its iPad is pushing PCs into obsolescence, at least for some consumer uses.

In particular, inexpensive netbooks and mini-notebooks, a promising growth sector just two years ago, are dying on the vine.

Companies like Acer and Dell, which invested heavily in those sectors, have seen their year-over-year U.S. sales decline by 25 percent and 12 percent, respectively, for the first quarter, according to researchers at Gartner Inc., a technology analyst firm.

Apple, in the meantime, grew by 19 percent.

Overall, U.S. notebook sales have declined for three quarters straight. The only thing that has saved the PC industry is a rise in office computer sales as companies began to invest in new equipment after the recession.

And although alternative tablets are beginning to take some market share, Apple owns about 90 percent of the market with the iPad. It likely will be a year or two before the alternatives can present real competition with stable operating systems, a good selection of apps and lower prices.

In the meantime, the iPad is moving off the coffee table and into people's lives.

Restaurants use it as an interactive menu; artists use it as a sketchpad; doctors use it to check x-rays and other medical information.

And mom may soon use it to write poetry.

James Davis May 09, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Nice write Jeffrey. I agree totally. Where I think the iPad or tablet devices with Honeycomb will be making a big dent in PC sales is the casual user. You and I know that most users that want to check email and travel the web a bit could care less if their computer has multiple core capabilities or that it can play games easily in over 30 FPS. So the Intels of the world are sort of pushing in this direction of powerful and energy efficient chips whereas TI or Qualcomm lately are pushing into the mobile arena. Casuals care about ease of use and can I get from point A to point B without a lot of fuss and having to download all kinds of stuff to make things work. Apple on the other hand has marketing/advertising geniuses that give users a 'visual' into how this type of device can be utilized in ones life, whether professional or casual. I am not biased towards one or the other platform, they are just tools to get me to and from. Apple's success lies in its perceived transparency and streamlined products....in other words you know what you are buying and the differences under the hood are irrelevant to the casual end user.
James Davis May 09, 2011 at 04:46 PM
To add. So far my personal tablet experience has taken a little while to get used to. I am using a Honeycomb device and its more or less a giant smartphone. I dont think there is a whole lot of differentiation yet between the two. I do think it will evolve though. I definitely have a lot more typos than on a pc but less than a smartphone. Viewing full webpages are nice vs the smartphone. Apps that are designed for Android smartphones DO NOT render specifically for the tablet yet, which can make news apps and such a bit weird considering its meant for smaller real estate in the display. As for right now, it sits next to the recliner on the coffee table....so I can catch up on the latest Patch news of course!

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