TechCrunch reports that Forrester Research has new research out that predicts that tablet computers will overtake netbook sales by 2012 and desktop computer sales by 2013. Only laptop computers will sell more than tablets.
At the height of the netbook fever I had commented on a post on Ajay Shah’s blog:
In reading his posts and yours, I wonder if we aren’t conflating two distinct properties of netbooks – small and cheap. From what we seek in India – deeper penetration of computers – “small” is no good, unless it in fact is the cause of “cheap”. A small keyboard and screen, in fact will prove to be a hindrance to adoption if this is going to be the first computer for people.
I never believed that netbooks were a different game-changing kind of computer. It was just a cheaper one. That tablets will overtake them is not a big stretch. But for tablets to become the largest selling personal computing device after laptops, that’s something.
I’ll confess, I don’t own an iPad. I’ve played around it at the nearby Best Buy. It has sex appeal, no doubt. But I find it difficult to imagine it as a serious computing device. Data input is always going to be challenging compared to a laptop. I just can’t see people buying an iPad as their only computer for personal use. It will probably have to be their second or third one.
It also can’t take the replacement market for computers at home for the same reason. So you’re looking at a market comprising of people who have enough disposable income for the tablet and the wireless data plan as a discretionary second or third computer for personal use. Essentially, it is a luxury good. I think its sales curve will also behave like that – quick uptake from early tech adopters but no hockey stick like the iPod or iPhone.
What this doesn’t factor in is the use of tablets in business. There is much in the air about tablet computers in healthcare. It does sound plausible that they will find a market in some industries. Another trend that could be favourable for it, but one that I am not seeing so far, is if people use a tablet with a docked station as their primary computer. I use a docked laptop at home but most people find it too cumbersome. I don’t think that will be a significant factor.
All that said, my hunches are shaped by my experiences. Unlike a lot of people, I find it painful to type on a screen. After years of using a blackberry, I tried out the HTC Hero. My experience has been so poor that I am now moving to an old Android phone, the G1, that has a keyboard. So clearly, you have to take what I think about touch screen devices with a large pinch of salt.