You’re Right, Steve. The PC Is a Truck. But the Tablet Isn’t a Car. It’s a Bicycle.
Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs likes to compare the transition from desktop/laptop PCs to tablets with the transition from trucks to cars. Like trucks, which waned in popularity with the urbanization of America, so too will older PC form factors with the advent of more mobile and responsive forms of computing.
“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm,” Jobs said at D8 last month. “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.”
Jobs stopped short of predicting just how quickly this transition will occur, but in a research report published today, Forrester (FORR) hazards a guess: By 2015, nearly one out of four computers sold in the U.S. will be a tablet. According to analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, tablets will outsell netbooks by 2012 and desktops by 2015.
“Catalyzed by the introduction of the Apple iPad, the tablet market will kick off with a modest 3.5 million units sold in the US in 2010 but will grow at a whopping 42 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between now and 2015,” she writes. “Tablet growth will come at the expense of netbooks, which have a similar grab-and-go media consumption and Web browsing use case as tablets but don’t synchronize data across devices like the iPad does.”
Five years from now, Epps says, only laptops will have a greater share of the PC market (42 percent). At that point, tablets will claim a 23 percent share, and the only thing keeping desktop sales alive will be processing-heavy consumer needs like gaming and video editing.
“Although notebook/laptop users will still be outnumbered by desktop users in 2015, laptops will represent the lion’s share of new PC purchases from now through 2015,” Epps writes.
“Even though consumers may use tablets for many of the same functions for which they currently use laptops–media consumption, email, Web browsing, and light productivity–they won’t replace laptops,” the analyst concludes. “Instead, tablets will become a consumer’s other computer that’s more portable within the home and outside of it.”
In other words, Epps thinks Steve Jobs is right when he says the PC is destined to become a “truck.” But she disagrees that the tablet is the car that will replace it. In her view, it’s the laptop that’s the car. Which I suppose makes the tablet a bicycle–not necessarily a bad thing from a sales point. Almost everyone owns a bicycle, right?