Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2012, report says

Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2012, report says

Summary: Tablets will begin to outsell netbooks in 2012, and by 2014, more consumers will use tablets than use netbooks, according to a new report.


Tablets will begin to outsell netbooks in 2012, and by 2014, more consumers will use tablets than use netbooks, according to a new report.

According to a Forrester Research report released on Thursday, tablets are predicted to constitute 23 percent of PC unit sales in 2015.

"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 services like the iPad does," analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said in a statement.

More interesting takeaways from the report:

  • Consumers "didn't ask" for tablets. Apple is successfully teaching consumers to want the iPad.
  • Nearly half a billion PCs will be sold to consumers in the U.S. between now and 2015.
  • Over the next five years, PC unit sales across all form factors — desktops, notebooks and laptops, tablets, and netbooks — will increase by 52 percent.
  • Tablet sales in the U.S. will go from 3.5 million units in 2010 to 20.4 million units in 2015.

Desktop sales are predicted to slide over the next five years, from 18.7 million units sold in 2010 to 15.7 units in 2015, according to the report.

By 2015, Forrester forecasts a U.S. PC market that looks like this:

  • Notebooks, 42 percent
  • Tablets, 23 percent
  • Desktops, 18 percent
  • Netbooks, 17 percent

The big shocker, in my opinion: netbooks and desktops will still constitute, in total, more than a third of the total market.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • There they go again

    When I was in grad school, my classmates didn't think too highly of Forrester Research because some of their projections were downright unrealistic. Looks like tey're at it again.

    There are 2 types of tablets:

    - convertibles (notebooks those with more-or-less permanently attached hardware keyboards) and
    - slates (without hardware keyboards).

    Convertibles have to significantly improve their handwriting recognition to near 100% (a very tall order), get much lighter, get faster (so they won't seem so sluggish), have much longer battery life (which flies in the face of lieggter weight), support active digitizers (for handwriting recognition) and palm rejection, and above all, get much cheaper, to $500.

    Slates need to get a little lighter, figure out how to have a part time docked hardware keyboard which you can use on the move, have longer battery life, have built-in office grade applications and not just applets, have always-on connectivity (requiring an all-you-can-eat data plan, which is not what AT&T would have you). They also need to get as cheap as netbooks, or $250-$350.

    While I do believe that tablets will eventually outsell other forms of laptops, I don't think the technical challenges will be surmounted soon eough to enable tablets to outsell others as soon as Forrester thinks.
    • Good Comments...

      ...but I think handwriting recognition with a digitizer is solid, certainly there isn't the need for "significant improvement". Cost is also an issue, but that's true for anything.
      • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

        @runbabyrun Try being lefthanded and using these features. I have a Fujitsu tablet and gave up on using the handwriting feature. It don't work well and the hardware is layed out for righthand people.
    • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

      @rosanlo Convertible tablets are a dead form factor. Expect that by end of 2011, no manufacturer will be releasing/announcing convertible tablets. Handwriting recognition is also dead. The stylus is dead for that matter. The future of tablets is all touch. No one is working on better stylus input at this point. So handwriting recog is not going to see any great improvement.
      Forrester is off in this projection, for sure but it's not because they are unrealistic but because they are too conservative. Tablets will outsell Netbooks by middle of next year and will outsell Notebooks by 2015. In very small and admittedly anecdotal sampling, everyone who I know using an iPad says that it replaces 80%+ of their need for a notebook/laptop. Those people will not buy another laptop. The future of computing will be a series of docks (at work, at home, in the car?) and you will drop your slate in for different input interfaces (keyboard) when straight touch doesn't meet your needs.
    • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

      @rosanlo Excellent comment. Particularly your note on battery life. These things are meant to be used while on the go, without having to search for electrical outlets - the need for which negates the whole purpose of the tablet PC. Whatever the flavour.<br><br>Executives who want them are entranced by the form factor, yet find a less optimum experience when actually trying to write on the things. When you're used to writing in such a manner that your wrist is flat on the surface of a desk, it's difficult to get used to writing on a raised platform. Sort of like trying to do any sort of fast typing on on-screen video keyboard.

      P.S. I have no experience with Forrester and their predictions, but as far as ratios of notebooks to workstations go, right now they're mirroring Gartner's projections which IIRC, has the ratio at 80/20 in favour of laptops by 2012. Anyway, that number came up at a tech conference but I was unable to get a source for it, so take it with a grain of salt for now. (You have to *pay* for Gartner's research and I'm just not that flush - or interested - right now) :)
    • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

      Why couldn't they implement the Swype keyboard ( for tablets and/or netbooks and avoid QWERTY keyboards, stylus', and pecking keyboards all together. I have it on my Verizon Samsung Omnia II, it works phenominal, and has revolutionized the way I compose texts and emails on my phone. Why couldn't this be implemented on a tablet? I'm actually quite shocked that Apple didn't suck up such a great technology such as this.
  • Doesn't matter

    That shift would only be valid for the US market. Netbooks will still dominate tablets globally by a large margin. Quite frankly, the US market gets its value from being the largest purchaser of the most expensive electronics. Netbooks are low priced devices that benefit manufacturers who manage to sell them in huge volumes. That means that the US was never going to be the ideal market for the netbook category. Instead, it's the emerging markets (66% of the global population) that will be the gold mine for netbooks, where they will vastly outsell any tablet not priced below $200.
    • Could you explain your logic, please?

      @eMJayy What, exactly, are the sales rates of netbooks overseas right now? What, exactly, are the sales of tablets in these same venues? Why do you think overseas venues will lag so far behind the US?

      Yes, I agree we're the first purchasers of new technology--usually because we're the ones who created that technology in the first place. Japan frequently out-purchases any new technology that originated there and very rapidly adopts technologies that take sometimes 2 to 3 years to reach the states. Even in Japan, however, iPhones and iPads seem to be the single most popular smart devices/tablets on the market. This would seem to refute your argument.
      • You missed my point

        @vulpine@...<br><br>My point's not about who adopts new technology first. Instead, I'm simply pointing out the fact that netbooks have reached the point where adoption in western nations like the US and Japan are no longer vital for survival of that form factor. This device is ideally priced for widespread adoption in emerging markets...and once emerging markets continue to buy them in increasing volume (see link below), they'll always outsell tablets globally. Tablets are too expensive to compete in those markets, so they'll never sell as many as netbooks globally. Don't underestimate how big the emerging markets are in the grand scheme of things....Intel surely hasn't. <br><br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a>
      • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

        @vulpine@emjay: An interesting viewpoint and possibly accurate as long as you only consider 'third world' buyers, for which the netbook concept was originally designed; however, this data doesn't seem to be supported by current market measurements. In fact, according to at least two different analysts, rather than showing growth in sales, netbooks have shown a marginal loss in sales since the iPad was released, an effective elimination of almost-unbelievable growth numbers just this time last year at 50%. This isn't to say that netbooks are going to die, but rather that they're going to see significantly lower sales and most of those in markets where the people can't afford newer, more powerful devices. Even so, it's very possible that a tablet could prove a more usable device by allowing handwriting recognition rather than forcing the new user to learn how to type on a keyboard that might not even match their own alphabet. Honestly, you can't assume that everybody knows English well enough to write/type in it or computers well enough to know how to use a mouse/trackpad and keyboard. A tablet becomes much more natural because people are used to touching things when they write or move objects, they're not used to imagining a motion on a trackpad equivalent to touching the item itself on the screen.

        What really happens, neither of us has the answer; only time does. But personally, I think the tablet format can do far more than most IT specialists--and that includes Intel's CEO--want to believe.
  • Oh, I get it

    Somebody at Forrester Research just bought an iPad. Let's see what prediction is coming from them couple months later.
  • Consumers didnt ask for tablets

    <i>...A lot of times, people dont know what they want until you show it to them.</i> --- Steve Jobs<br><br><br>.
    • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

      @dave95. You know what? Jobs is sort of king of the effective marketing arena. He happens to be right. Kind of scary, really.
    • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

      @dave95. But we've been expecting the tablet since 1968 when a character in 2001: A Space Odyssey drops a 'clipboard' on a bench and starts watching the news on it.

      Personally, I want my personal jetpack (James Bond: Thunderball, 1964-ish)
      Dee Carter
  • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

    Did we long for automobiles when we were perfectly happy with old Dobbin? Predictions are dicy at best. The fact that it would seem one man is designing the future at the moment is remarkable. Ok, it's a small slice of the future, but isn't there a quote about making a 'dent in the universe'? Who can say they've made several dents.
  • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

    Looks like they have been reading RainyDayMagazine.

    We have been saying this since we got our hands on the iPad on launch day:

    The Perfect Tablet:
  • Tablets: An answer for the fashion-conscious

    Tablet PCs will remain a fashion statement and social net-dorking accessory until there's a way to put input 60 original wpm into a word processor and rows of your research findings into a spreadsheet. <br><br>What? You say we'll just instantly download our words and pull numbers off of wi-fi?<br><br>That works for the millions of spectators--not for people who actually produce real work.
    • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

      @archetuthus <br><br>The majority of netbook/laptop use today when talking about consumers are for social and entertainment and consumption purposes. The scale have shifted from the days of buying a computer for the main purpose of crunching in numbers and word processing, to being our entertainment, social and consumption device we take everywhere. This is one of the main reasons the lighter, cheaper netbooks took off, and why the iPad is doing the same now. A device like the iPad fits right into consumers lifestyle today. I will guess for 80 - 90 percent of most peoples daily computer use, an iPad will be perfectly sufficient. And offer a better more elegant experience over a netbook/pc in many many areas.
    • Tablets: An answer for those who need mobility.

      @archetuthus 60 wpm typing is possible on a touch screen, though I admit it's not easy. Most of us keep our fingers just touching the keyboard as we pause between thoughts, but hold our fingers off the keys as we actually type. In fact, we're taught in school (if you learned to type in a school) to keep your fingers off the keys to reduce the risk of double-striking and miskeying; anyone familiar with electric typewriters can remember how easy it was to miskey even by just verifying your home row position. In other words, our habit of touching the keys, while ensuring our positional accuracy, goes against what we were taught and is a bad habit.

      However, that doesn't mean you can't use an external keyboard on the iPad or another tablet. You have people complaining even now that the only viable tablet will be one with a keyboard attached or connectable via USB. Remember, a tablet is designed to wean you away from the need for a physical keyboard or mouse. In fact, I expect many of us will need to relearn how to write again; Apple's recent patent for script-recognition software (optical [i]word[/i] recognition vs [i]character[/i] recognition) implies that by seeing strings of characters and trying to match them with words will be more reliable and more accurate than anything else currently in existence. This also means that the new tablets will be able to finally replace the clipboard as the most convenient mobile note-taking device, not requiring you to set it down on something to use it. Netbooks and notebooks both suffer this major drawback to mobile utility and really can inhibit mobile use. That said, the iPad or other tablet device is [i]not[i] designed to be a productivity tool for a writer or blogger, but that doesn't prohibit its use for taking notes and short statements. On the other hand, its abilities to edit text, manipulate graphics within the text and store and display images, the tablet can become a truly productive tool for that person who doesn't have the time or the place to set their portable down as they work.

      So, no, we won't just 'instantly download our words and pull numbers off of Wi-Fi,' we'll do what we need to do, as we need to do it. A tablet is not intended to be a portable typewriter, it's intended to be a mobility tool working in conjunction with a desktop or portable computer. To even suggest anything else is totally ignoring the concept of what a tablet should be.
  • RE: Tablets to outsell netbooks by 2010, report says

    These facts really only matter to the companies. For the consumers, there are now so many options for electronics...tablets, netbooks, desktops, laptops, smart phones....that it's just like "use the one that best suits your needs." iPad fans need to take note: If the idea is to be the one with the "in" device, this great variety in devices makes it so that your choice is now just seen as one of many possible ways to go. Nobody really cares any more what the other guy is using. There's something different for everyone.