Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

Summary: There are many objections to the argument that tablets should be counted as a kind of PC. I dismiss five of them.


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 (1920x1080 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."


Do you buy the argument that tablets should be lumped together with PCs?

Topics: ÜberTech, Tablets, Smartphones, Samsung, Operating Systems, Mobility, Mobile OS, Laptops, iPad, Hardware

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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  • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

    Tablets are not Desktops. Ask anyone who needs to work on spreadsheets, edit photos or videos, etc.
    • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

      @pt10961. Would have to disagree. You can work on spreadsheets on the iPad via Numbers, Documents to Go, and a few other office suites. You can edit photos on the iPad using a number of applications such as Photogene, PhotForge, Filterstorm, Masque, PixelMagic, and PhotoPad. You can edit videos on the iPad with ReelDirector. A number of companies have been releasing 1.0 versions of IDEs to do development. There are accounting applications, and Neat Receipts is working on an app that will allow you to scan documents and receipts using their portable scanner. Some of these applications are 1.0 versions. If you look at how long (years) these desktop applications took to develop and perfect you will see that they are maturing on the iPad at 1000x the speed they did for the desktop. The iPad has been available for less than 12 months. I'm sure similar apps are (or will be) available for the Android platform as well.

      The personal computer landscape is going to change drastically in the next 3-5 years. This of course will continue to change the Internet landscape and business environment. Just as the Apple ][, the IBM PC, the Macintosh, and Palm Pilot were disruptive technology in their times, as will be the iPad. It already has proven to be.
      • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

        @rjpotts69 Very well-put! Another reason why tablets are more like PCs than devices: most tablet manufacturers have a strong history as PC makers - Motorola and RIM being the only major exceptions off the top of my head.
      • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

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    • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs


      Well duh, the writer didn't even mention desktops once in his write up.
    • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

      @pt10961 Of course. Desktops don't come with a video display. That's an additional cost option. They also don't come with a keyboard and mouse - only with USB ports to attach such things that may or may not be in the package. And they don't come with power. You have to supply that. Also, Desktops generally don't connect to wireless networks out of the box - though some do. Generally you have to tether a desktop to some sort of wired network connection, a monitor, mouse and keyboard, and apply power before it will do anything useful at all. Until then it's just another brick.

      And after that you can't move it to where you need it to be, because it's got dangly bits. It's fine for a static shared workstation, where anybody can sit in a vacant cube and use it - but that's not personal. It's completely inferior to a real Personal Computer, which goes with the person to where he need to compute. Concur. The Desktop is not a PC.
    • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

      @pt10961 : And who said they are desktops?

      What the author is exposing is that they are PCs. That is "Personal Computers", computers owned by individuals and competing for the mind share and wallet with Windows- and Mac-compatible systems.
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  • Tablet form factor is what people have been *dreaming* of all along

    Another good comment, from reader Derek Bastille:<br><br>"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?<br><br>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 ;-)"
  • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

    This being a matter of definition, there really isn't a "right" answer. The question becomes: "how does one choose to define the category 'PC'?"

    That said, though there may be some unclear cases, a USEFUL definition of 'X' (whatever X might be) will track our concepts, such that those things that clearly aren't X's don't fall under the definition, while those that clearly are X's do.

    One problem with the above article is that it seems to wish to embrace a broad definition of 'PC'. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with doing such a thing, but in this particular case such would seem to broaden the definition to include all manner of devices (such as mobile phones) that clearly are NOT 'PC's (at the very least they are a different market), despite their being both 'personal' and 'computers'.
  • You can call whatever you want a PC, but...

    What would happen if I went into Best Buy and asked for a PC, and then the salesman whips out an iPad and politely states, "Here you go.". I would simply ask for another salesman. If I asked for an iPad and they showed me a PC, the same would happen. ...No sale. Capish? What language are we talking here?

    If a marketing research company wanted skew numbers to convince the public that Apple is more successful that it already is, then they could simply pollute terminology "PC" and claim that anything Apple makes is a PC. Viola, Apple is now selling many more PCs.

    Android Phones could be called PCs as well, so what does that make Google?

    Computers with Linux installed on them by their owners don't even count as PCs in traditional marketing speak. Or if they are counted, they are counted as Microsoft PCs. How can that be? Because there is no good way to measure the incredible success of Linux using traditional marketing methods based on revenue. It is also possible that marketing research companies would rather cater to the folks that pay them--the big vendors who pay for marketing "research". Marketing stats suggest the Windows is run on 95% of computers world-wide, this is obviously bunk.

    Personally, I would call the iPad a "BIG skipper" and the iPhone a "little skipper". If I had either, I would toss them into the river to see how many times they skip before sinking into the murky depth. Apple sells "Skippers". The Skipper market is doing very well.
  • Tablets with bluetooth keyboards; High powered desktops

    The tablet is not a paradigm shift; it is an additional tool, a new configuration of PC. It will influence PC design, but powerful desktop workstations will still dominate a large number of computing applications. It needs to be understood that when this issue was first discussed it was the "PC" against the "Mainframe" but today a "PC" has vastly more capability than the early "Mainframe". Now that was a paradigm shift driven by the physics of microprocessors.
  • Tablets and Netbooks are not PCs

    There I said it. Only Microsoft wants to count them that way as it continues to show their dominance in the PC market as opposed to their failing in the netbook and tablet markets. (Not to mention all other mobile markets.)
  • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

    This debate misses the point. Who cares whether it's counted as PC or tablet. The real question is how can I use my tablet as PC. When my computer died last year I was like this is stupid buying another PC why can't my iPad do all the things I want. I mean there are a jillion apps out there that let you integrate features. But the one the completely weaned my off my PC was AlwaysOnPC, http://www.alwaysonpc.com/iPad-office-suite. Their app gives you a PC on your iPad with Office, Flash, email, etc. And with my external keyboard I'm done.
  • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

    It's not a real pc. Go out and buy an iPad and turn it on. Oh wait you can't, because you have to tether it to a real PC first. A new update come out? Tether it to a real pc to update it. Wanna install software outside of the app store? Most jailbreaks require tethering it to your real pc(either the first time or every time). The idea of it being a computer requires a level of self sufficiency which the iPad lacks. It's still a fantastic device - but its not a PC.
  • Why not make EVERYTHING a PC?

    What happens when mobile phones get a little more powerful, not that they aren't already. They don't have long to go before becoming just as powerful as an iPad, and the size of some current phones are huge! Almost tablet sized! Are they going to be considered PCs? Probably not.

    What about Sony's new PSP that was just announced? This supposedly has the same graphical power as a PS3, with a fully functional OS, web browser, and room for apps. Surely it won't be considered a PC (not unless it makes billions like the iPad, then we'll see).

    I see how everything in terms of technology is beginning to become one in the same, and inter-connectible, which is good! But an iPad is not a PC, just as much as a PSP is not. The damn thing can't even run flash!
  • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

    Ipad or Tablets <a href="http://www.coolmags.net/gadgets/8-9-inch-exopc-tablet-similar-to-ipad.html">Similar To Ipad</a> are making waves in the electronic market for quite some time now. The buzz is not to die off soon with more and more innovations to make tablets do everything a PC can do. However it will take few more generations of development to make them compete with the PC's and high-end laptops because they do have limitation in terms of size and weight.
    Pradeepkumar VD
  • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

    The iPad is far from a tablet PC, if you open it up, all of the hardware is identical to a plain old iphone 4, save for a bigger screen and two large batteries. Also as another has pointed out above, they are proprietary and arent good for much without being connected to a Windows or OSX box. I think its sad that Canalys would make such a blind grouping based on the fact of the screen size. Without obviously doing any research at all.
    • RE: Five Reasons Why Tablets Like the iPad Are PCs

      @rdufreche : why would i ever need to connect my ipad to my pc is beyond me. Appstore downloads everything to the device itself...
  • It's about money, not specs

    Virtually all the people who actually spend money on market research had better consider tablets as PCs. Anybody who makes PCs -- or PC chips, or PC operating systems -- who doesn't see tablets as a threat is asleep. Microsoft didn't see tablets as a threat, and now everyone thinks they were asleep. Same with HP, Dell, Acer, and Asus. If you're in the business of selling 'general purpose computing devices,' you had better view tablets as a form of competition; your failure to do so will cost you dearly. For market research purposes, a "PC" is anything that can lay claim to money that people intend to spend on a general purpose computing device (as opposed to a gaming console, or a phone, or a cruise missile signal processor).
    Robert Hahn