Tablet, Thy Time Has Come
Top 5 tablets and mobile phones from MWC 2013 [Source: WhichWebsite http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQZvLWyXah4]
Just when you thought your smartphone was the center of your digital life, something new comes along. This year we've officially passed the threshold into the new computing model with tablets becoming the platform of choice. Doesn't it seem like we just took delivery of our smartphones like, uh, yesterday? To be sure, the smartphone's trajectory is going up, up, up. It has enormous growth potential. But it's sobering nonetheless that the computer industry and the marketplace that drives it sometimes seem to be moving a lot faster than we are. Like a shark cutting through the ocean at breakneck speed while we're just treading water.
Mary Meeker, the former Internet analyst who's now a major player in the private equity world, outlined the exponentially rapid growth of the tablet in her annual internet trends report. First the big picture: Meeker says that global traffic of mobile devices as a percentage of global Internet traffic is unrelenting. It's been growing at 1.5 times a year for some time now and is likely to maintain that rate for the next few years. The trend line, therefore, is that mobile devices accounted for 0.9 percent of Internet traffic at the end of 2008. By the end of 2014, they could account for a quarter of all Internet traffic.
In the mobile category, Meeker compared the first 12 quarters (that is to say, three years after each launch) of cumulative unit shipments of Apple's iPad and iPhone. iPad shipments are almost three times greater than iPhone shipments at this point. Even more profound is how quickly tablets are blowing away desktop and notebook PCs including netbooks. In the first quarter of this year, after just three years on the market, consumers are buying more tablets than they are picking notebooks or desktops - both of which have been around for decades. Again, that's not to say desktops and notebooks are going the way of the dodo bird. Sales of both types of computer continue to sell millions of units worldwide. It's simply that sales of tablets are outpacing them and will most likely continue to post exponential growth for the next few years.
Those of us who use tablets have come to enjoy the fact that they combine all that's convenient in a smartphone with the substantial feel and larger screen of a notebook. Their apps are perfect for both business and personal use. Plus, the tablet is becoming increasingly diverse in its size, design, functionality, and price point. Some diehard smartphone fans have pointed out that if tablets get any smaller, they'll turn into ... smartphones. Indeed, that's part of their success story, according to Meeker. The smart phone essentially gave birth to the larger and more sophisticated tablets, which - you've probably guessed by now - will become the proud parents of the third generation of this family: the wearable computer. The reality is that the creation of this next-generation computer will be driven by a combination of higher functionality and lower cost. Meaning we'll see 10 billion computer users/units by 2020, compared with 1 billion users a decade ago and a scant 1 million users worldwide back in the mid-1970s, according to Meeker.
If history is any guide, chances are wearables will start hitting stores the moment we've all adopted the tablet and have become universally comfortable with it as our go-to computer. That's not such a bad thing. Like a bolt of lightning followed by a thunderclap, innovation usually arrives with a bit of disruption in tow.