Electronics Production | September 30, 2011

Despite media tablet inroads, the notebook PC lives on

Although the media tablet war has inflicted an early casualty on the mobile PC industry with the demise of the netbook, the overall notebook market will live to fight another day, with shipments rising by 100 million units by 2015 partly because of the rising sales of PC tablets, according to IHS iSuppli.
Worldwide notebook unit shipments are expected to rise to 324.9 million in 2015, up 104.8 million from 220.1 million in 2011. Although annual notebook shipment growth will slow during the coming years because of rising tablet competition, the notebook market will continue to expand because of the key role that the platform plays among businesses and consumers.

“Despite the intense competition from media tablets, notebooks remain a useful tool that has become an essential part of modern life—rather than a luxury item,” said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst for compute platforms research at IHS. “Compared to the consumption-oriented media tablets, notebooks are superior platforms for content creation tasks, ranging from developing websites, to building rich documents, to editing high-definition videos and photos. Because of this, the notebook PC will continue to be an important, expanding market—even if its sales growth will be slower than it was in the past.”

Tablets battle notebooks for consumer mind share

Thanks to its strong brand image as well as astute product and price positioning, Apple’s iPad has enjoyed overwhelming success. As a result, the global media tablet market has exceeded growth expectations since tablets were released to the market at the beginning of the second quarter of 2010.

IHS predicts global media tablet shipments will reach 60 million units in 2011, up 245.9 percent from 17.4 million in 2010. Shipments are expected to increase to 275.3 million in 2015.

“Following the launch of Apple’s iPad and other high-profile devices, consumers have been bombarded with media tablet advertising and press coverage,” Wilkins noted. “And with the media tablet portrayed as providing the same capabilities as the notebook PC, consumers are considering media tablets to be an alternative to notebooks. This has caused notebook sales growth to slow down compared to past years.”

Tablets come as a bitter pill for netbooks

Nowhere has the impact of tablets on notebooks been more apparent than in the once-hot netbook segment.

After enjoying double-digit growth from 2008 through 2010, netbook shipments are set to decline to 21.5 million units in 2011, down 33.2 percent from 32 million in 2010. Shipments are expected to continue to decrease during the coming years and will dwindle to 13.5 million units in 2015.

“A similar user experience to that of the netbook is offered by the media tablet, with both being highly portable platforms allowing convenient consumption of multimedia content, whether offline or online,” Wilkins noted. “Thus, the media tablet is attracting purchases from consumers who otherwise might buy notebooks.”

Tablets go PC

Ironically, the notebook market is expected to find some solace from the onslaught of media tablets in an unlikely place: the PC tablet. PC tablets are slate or convertible/hybrid tablets that incorporate a full PC operating system such as Windows 7 or Linux.

Unlike the great success of the media tablet, the PC tablet to date has only gained limited penetration into the mainstream business segment as an alternative to the notebook PC, along with small success in vertical markets including medical, logistics and education.

However, the launch by Microsoft Corp. of its new Windows 8 operating system in late 2012 will boost the acceptance of the PC tablet in the enterprise segment as well as the consumer market, because of its compatibility with current PC applications and other PC platforms.

As such, IHS predicts that growth of PC tablets will begin to accelerate in 2013—one year after Windows 8 is released—with shipments of 10 million units. PC tablet shipments then are expected to nearly quintuple by 2015, reaching 45.2 million units.
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