Despite Tablets, Notebook Market Alive And Well

One of the less logical claims that's been made about tablets in the past twelve months is that the devices would somehow supplant or replace notebooks. This last has been supported by various companies, including Apple (claims that Apple became the top mobile vendor in 2011 factor tablet sales into the equation).

Sales data continues to indicate that tablets are not, in fact, replacing notebooks and are unlikely to do so. A new report
from IHS Supply sheds more light on the situation. "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."

iSuppli expects the notebook market to hit 324.9 million unit shipments in 2015, up 104.8 million units from 2011. Granted, tablets have been a huge success, and an overwhelming chunk of the tablet market (>60 percent) belongs to Apple. The real damage, however, has been to netbooks—not notebooks. Netbooks were always treated as a complementary product that consumers tended to buy in addition to a notebook rather than instead of one, and tablets are bidding hard to replace netbooks as devices of choice.

“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.”

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.”

The PC industry is well aware of these trends, which is why so many manufacturers are trying to crack into the tablet market. PC tablets aren't likely to take off until the arrival of Windows 8, but Amazon's Kindle Fire could prove to be the first tablet that puts a serious chink in the iPad's armor. The Kindle Fire's success would at least be proof that someone other than Apple can crack the tablet market, and could reinvigorate a market that's watched multiple high-profile companies smash themselves against the iPad monolith.