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Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

Market research firm Canalys made a gutsy move today: it became the first major market tracker to start lumping consumer tablets like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab together with other PCs.

This has major implications. First, doing so vaults Apple into third place globally in Q4 among PC vendors, behind HP and Acer, according to Canalys. By contrast, Gartner and IDC, who are better-known for tracking the PC market (and presumably thus more conservative in their methodology), do not (yet) count iPads as PCs.

Also, calling a tablet a PC means that we are acknowledging a tablet is a real computer, not a dismissing it as some limited-use mobile device.

At the risk of wading into a ‘How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?‘ type of debate, let’s examine the arguments against counting tablets as PCs in order to knock them down. Shall we begin?

1) “There’s no [physical] keyboard.” Yes, but as BetaNews’ Joe Wilcox points out, IDC counts Windows tablets as PCs, even though a large percentage of them are stylus/finger input only.

2) “Tablets suck for doing real work like type long memos or build slide decks.” I know plenty of businesspeople, especially managers, who spend the majority of their time in Outlook or Lotus Notes, sending and receiving e-mails. Are they not doing *real* work? Does that mean doing e-mail on a tablet is suddenly not real work? What about pulling up sales leads or mining deep Business Intelligence data via rich analytical dashboards? Sounds like real work to me. These are all business tasks at which tablets like the iPad already excel.

3) “Canalys is just doing the bidding of Steve Jobs and other Apple fanboys.” Actually, Apple doesn’t seem to be interested in lumping iPads with its MacBooks or iMacs, judging by its recent fiscal Q1 earnings call. Nowhere does COO Tim Cook refer to iPads as PCs or computers. In fact, Cook implies that Apple internally sees iPads as being different beasts than Macs: “The iPad teams are building the best iPad for the future, and the Mac  teams are building the best Mac, and I can tell you that both groups  believe that they can continue to grow and do great stuff, and I believe  that.”

4) “Neither iOS nor Android are full-fledged operating systems.” By what metric? Lines of code? Android has 12 million lines of code. Windows NT 3.51 had 10.1 million. Do we retroactively declare that those servers running NT 3.51 weren’t “real” computers? Or do we base this on the fact these iOS and Android run apps, not applications? Well, Mac OS X now has its own App Store. Or is it because iOS and Android run on ARM chips, not Intel? Well, then let’s start thinking of a new category to put Windows in after Microsoft ports it successfully over to ARM.

5) “Tablets aren’t as powerful as PCs.” Actually, ARM’s single-core CPUs last year were already more powerful than their Intel Atom counterparts, according to chip researcher, The Linley Group. The latest dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPUs due to arrive in tablets this year should pull ahead of Atom even more, especially when bolstered by powerful graphics such as Nvidia. Indeed, the graphics chip in the Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset, the 8-core ULP GeForce GPU, supports 1080p video output on up to 2 simultaneous displays (1920×1080 resolution). That’s far better than any laptop I’ve ever owned.

Perhaps we should just let Canalys’ analyst Daryl Chiam, who made the call to redefine tablets as PCs, speak.

“Any argument that a pad is not a PC is simply out of  sync,” said Chiam. “With screen sizes of seven inches or above, ample  processing power, and a growing number of applications, pads offer a  computing experience comparable to netbooks. They compete for the same  customers and will happily coexist.”

“Each new product category typically causes a significant  shift in market shares,” he continued. “Apple is benefiting from pads,  just as Acer, Samsung and Asus previously did with netbooks. The PC  industry has always evolved this way, starting when Toshiba and Compaq  rode high on the original notebook wave.”

6 Comments
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  • .. but they certainly won’t replace my current Windows based laptop.

    Why can’t I use arrow keys to change the URL in my browser?

    Why is there no useful file system where I can find things I’m working on? Can I save my files (whoops, can’t call them that) externally?

    Can I run SAP GUI in a useable fashion? 🙂

    Don’t get me wrong, iPads are useful for some things, but sadly not for everything.

    • “Can I run SAP GUI in a useable fashion? :-)”

      … as soon as SAP provides a full-featured GUI for HTML5, this is not a question anymore. Currently, only the Windows GUI is applicable for a SAP Pro.
      But there are other aspects an IT Pro can’t pass by. Embedded virtual Operating Systems are extraordinary  useful if you need to be on a VPN and need to access your web resources (email, SCN, cloud services, etc) at the same time…

  • Smartphones and tablets are used for consuming data / information and partially act on them. To create information you need a computer (keyboard, mouse, 1 to 3 screens), basic things like copy&paste between 2 programs without going crazy.

    br, Tobias

    • agreed, smartphones and tablets are extensions to (mostly Apple) desktops and laptops, but they have enough “intelligence” to pose as PC’s for tweeting, searching, emailing, payments, wire transfers, registrations, etc…heck, i post accounting journals on my iPhone.

      @greg_not_so

  • …I can’t help but think that sooner than we’ll realize, they’ll look like this antiquated-sounding article that was, astoundingly, last updated in 2001:

    “While ‘regular’ desktop PC systems have always been and likely always will be the way that most people buy PCs, notebook PCs (also called laptops) have become very popular in recent years. At first they were almost exclusively the province of big business ‘high rollers’ due to their very high cost. Now the cost of some notebooks PCs has come down dramatically, and they have really entered the mainstream. Many people use a notebook as their only PC today, and for some they offer advantages that make them very worthwhile. However, notebooks also represent a trap that far too many people fall into.”

    See link: http://www.pcguide.com/buy/req/detNotebooks-c.html

  • Another good comment, from reader Derek Bastille:

    “For me, the main reason to consider tablets as PCs is that the tablet form factor is what people have been wanting and dreaming of all along. Just look at the DynaBook for an example of where people had always hoped computers would go. After all, ‘PC’ stands for ‘Personal Computer’ — and what is more personal than a computer that you can easily carry around, is easily connected and has capabilities that were undreamed of 20 years ago?
    Heck, my iPhone 3GS has more memory, a more powerful processor and a far better display than the PDP-3 mini-computer that Unix was written on. Best of all, you don’t need any punchcards to program it ;-)”