Jobs Was Right: Tablets to Surpass Laptop Shipments in 2013

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Worldwide shipment of tablet devices, a category popularized by the launch of the original iPad in 2010, will surpass worldwide laptop sales in 2013, according to a market forecast report released Monday by NPD DisplaySearch. With 240 million tablet sales predicted in the coming year compared to 207 million laptop sales, the young category of devices will explode to capture a majority of the market less than three years after its broad adoption, reaching an astounding 75 percent of the mobile computing market by 2017.

DisplaySearch 2013 Tablets vs Notebooks

If the sales predictions prove true, 2013 will mark the first time that tablets will take the majority of the mobile computing market, a major shift for the industry and proof that “Steve Jobs was right,” as AllThingsD characterized the situation in their coverage of the report.

As the late Apple CEO and co-founder famously told the crowd at the 2010 D8 Conference shortly after the launch of the first generation iPad:

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.

Also revealed by the DisplaySearch report were figures for screen size popularity. The full-sized iPad uses a 9.7-inch display, which is currently the most common size for tablets. But new tablets from Apple and its competitors in the 7-to–8-inch size range are quickly gaining traction. This smaller tablet form factor is expected to account for 45 percent of all tablets in 2013, with continued growth until 2017.

DisplaySearch Tablet Screen Sizes

When Mr. Jobs made his 2010 remarks likening traditional PCs and Macs to trucks, many in the industry were wary of a future controlled by simplified and locked-down mobile devices. But like many of the late Apple CEO’s predictions, this one appears to be quickly coming true.

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i really don’t know what to think about this.

On one hand I realize that most people really doesn’t need anything more complicated than a tablet to do what they normally do, but on the other hand I fear the dumbification of the market and the consequences for people who need to work in more flexible ways on their device.

Sometimes I think tecnology shouldn’t be so accessible.



@Andhaka There is no dumbing down.  The market is still as smart or as dumb as it always was, it’s just that a lot of people will now stop buying computers that have features and capabilities that they don’t need or even know how to use.


@aardman: The problem is twofold. It’s true that they didn’t use those features, but they were there and sometimes people did learn to use them. The flexibility built in the machine was a bonus. Now, with this new “post-PC” mojo, the flexibility is gone and people will be even more discouraged to try to learn something outside the boundaries of their normal use.

Second problem is for people working on “normal” machines that will quickly become a niche with a probable rise in prices for HW and SW. Not sure this is so inevitable, but today I’m felling pessimist. wink


The inference seems to tablets will replace laptops. But the truth here is tablets are bringing more people to computing/technology, not necessarily replacing laptops. I just joined the multitude who have an iPad, but I’m finding it more of an entertainment device than a productive one that will replace my laptop. As a photographer and layout designer, the iPad is may be suited to my photographic needs than layout. But even then, it won’t replace a laptop.

I also have a Macbook Air, which I use in my business. Getting a keyboard for the iPad (and one is needed if you’ve any hope of being “productive”) seem ridiculous. I just use my Macbook Air when I need a keyboard and when I’m using Creative Suite. There’s no way I would do any serious editing or layout on an iPad.

For occasional simple word processing, calendar, tracking tasks, simple photo review in the field (I’ve not tried using the iPad as a remote connection to my DSLR), and easy access to documents (for review), the iPad is a nice tool. But for real productivity, the Macbook Air is the obvious choice for me.

So, if you’re talking about just sales, then yes the tablet has surpassed the laptop. But it seems a reach to say tablets will replace laptops. Maybe sometime down the road they will, but until there’s a better virtual keyboard, that road seems pretty long.


While it is not likely that a tablet will match current laptop capabilities; they will get more powerful over time. This makes it possible that more people will have all the computer they need with a tablet. I remember when it was first suggested that users could replace their desktops with laptops. It is the same advance in technology that is causing the current shift.


I’d liken a tablet more to a motorcycle than a car… its quick and easy, but much more limited if you want to do anything aside from getting from point A to point B.  Some day the car comparison will work better, but as long as everything is so frustratingly compartmentalized, and heaven forbid you ever want to email or upload a file that isn’t a photo.. tablets will sell well because they are fun and trendy.  But its not a post-pc era until I don’t need my PC anymore.

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