Christmas 2013 marks the end of the PC's dominance

Predictions of tablet domination are coming true, as Black Friday's holiday shoppers show

The tweet last week said it all: "At family Thanksgiving. A PC is on no one's Christmas list." (I'm paraphrasing, as the tweet has long rolled off my timeline.) IDC predicted a month before that spring 2014 was when more tablets would be sold than PCs, for the first time ever, while Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin thinks it could be much sooner -- perhaps even this Christmas.

Then came the report this week from IBM that mobile shopping surged 58 percent this year to account for 31 percent of all online shopping during the post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend, the Black Friday-through-Cyber Monday shopping orgy for Christmas. In that context, "mobile" means mainly tablets. IBM's trend was confirmed by other retail analysts.

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As I spent my Thanksgiving with my in-laws, I couldn't help note that everyone gathered at their house had an iPad or iPad Mini, even my 86-year-old father-in-law who uses it as an aid in solving crossword puzzles, but who a few years earlier never used the PC he had requested one Christmas. The PC in the house got little use during the long weekend, and no one brought a laptop with them. Although I'm a geek, my family is decidedly not, so their tabletization is indicative of what's happening broadly.

Those of us who saw tablets as PC replacements in the wake of 2010's iPad debut have been called foolish and worse. But they are, as several years of declining PC sales and a concomitant skyrocketing sales of iPads and, to a lesser extent, Android tablets both show. Although there's no doubt the horribly malformed Windows 8 has worsened matters for the PC, the fact is that the PC's decline in favor of tablets began during the era of the well-regarded Windows 7 -- and it's taking a toll on Mac sales, which until this year had been growing even as PC sales declined. In fact, IDC this week said PC sales are down 10.1 percent this year, and will continue to decline until, perhaps, they stabilize in 2017.

This tabletization is more evident in so-called consumer circles than in business, of course. People still use PCs for the many tasks they do better than a tablet can do -- filing taxes and creating photo albums, for example. But they're inceasingly using one PC to do that at home -- maybe two if an adult works from home as well. And they're getting tablets for each family member when before they'd get a PC for each. Just look around your living room in the evening while the TV is on -- most people have a mobile device at hand, right?

And how many of you plan to buy -- or have asked to receive -- a PC for Christmas? Now ask yourself that same question about a tablet. There's a reason that analysts agree that Christmas 2013 will be an iPad Christmas -- again.

The tablet's domination is coming to the work environment too. If you go to conferences, you see tablets more and more often -- in some professions, such as IT and health care, they're more common than laptops at industry events. The PC stays at the office, or perhaps at the hotel room where it is used to catch up on "deep" work that tablets don't handle so well. Even then, the tablet is used alongside the PC, both as an adjunct and as an independent device.

This article, "Christmas 2013 marks the end of the PC's dominance," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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