If your mobile strategy includes tablets, now is the time to resign yourself to the reality that they’re not a part of our consumer mobile future. They’re a part of our rapidly dissolving consumer PC past.
In January Gartner reported that the PC market was poised for growth after two years of decline. “The PC market is quietly stabilising after the installed base reduction driven by users diversifying their device portfolios. Now that tablets have mostly penetrated some key markets, consumer spending is slowly shifting back to PCs,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.
Andreessen Horowitz look at Windows PC quarterly sales versus iPad and Mac combined
Tablets are looking to share a similar fate, with worldwide shipments continuing to fall. In the first quarter of 2015, overall shipments of tablets and 2-in-1 devices declined 5.9% from the same quarter a year ago, according to research data from IDC. The iPad, still the world’s most popular tablet, just experienced its sharpest ever quarter-over-quarter decline of 35%.
The argument that upgrade cycles are longer for tablets than smartphones is valid, but that’s precisely the point. Consumers are upgrading their tablets in cycles similar to PCs due to the role they play in their personal computing lives — which is increasingly a less important one.
Lower prices and better features won’t save these devices, because they have become fundamentally unnecessary for large portions of our populations. There’s no desire or need for people to buy cumbersome machines for things they can do on the small ones that are always with them and always connected.
If it’s hard to imagine that most people don’t need a PC or a tablet, it’s important to remind yourself that the needs of a typical consumer will be far different to many of those reading this article. Smartphones are now at a point in application maturity, screen size and hardware performance to meet and surpass the wants and needs of the average consumer. Messaging, gaming, reading, banking, writing and even media consumption.
Older generations may not understand how younger ones can happily watch entire movies on their phones, but it’s not such a mental leap to make when you consider that an iPhone 6 Plus at about 6 inches from your face appears the same size as a 60 inch television a couple metres away. To really understand who that average consumer is and what their personal computing needs are however, all you have to do is look at what the top 25 occupations are in the USA, by volume of employees.
- Retail Salespersons
- Office Clerks
- Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food
- Registered Nurses
- Customer Service Representatives
- Waiters and Waitresses
- Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
- Janitors and Cleaners
- Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers
- General and Operations Managers
- Stock Clerks and Order Fillers
- Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
- Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers
- First-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales
- Sales Representatives,
- Nursing Assistants
- Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners
- First-Line Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers
- Elementary School Teachers
- Maintenance and Repair Workers, General
- Childcare Workers
- Accountants and Auditors
- Teacher Assistants
- Personal Care Aides
I won’t bore you with the next 25, which is similarly abstracted from the computer use many readers here would be accustom to. As you can see, most people aren’t developers, authors or video editors. Many of the roles in that list don’t need big screens or powerful hardware, especially not at home where they often wouldn’t carry on doing that job. Many of the people performing those jobs have no reliance on traditional computer equipment outside of work, as they can now achieve what they want to for themselves on their smartphone.
All of this said, tablets aren’t dead. Just like PCs aren’t dead either. It does now look clear however, that large format computers will in large be retired to education and business use cases. For the rest of us, a shift in personal computing behaviour continues to reshape what computing means.
Almost without us noticing, smartphones have become our primary and preferred personal computers. In the circumstance of many individuals — young and old, from America to India — they’re the only personal computers we need.