3 reasons why tablets thrive while PCs dive

Lower cost, lighter weight and greater ease of use are big draws to tablets

As the PC desktop and laptop market slumps and the tablet market grows, it might seem obvious to tablet users why that's so. However, details shared by analysts dramatically highlight three reasons behind robust tablet growth.

Tablets are growing so much in popularity that they will outstrip laptops shipped in 2013, IDC said, while tablets will exceed both laptops and desktops by 2015. There are three key reasons for the tablet's success.

First, tablets, on average, cost less than laptops or desktops -- about 60% as much.

Second, tablets are lighter and smaller, on average, and, therefore, more mobile, than laptops. Tablets with screen sizes that are less than 8 inches will make up 55% of the market in 2013, IDC said this week.

Third, tablets function differently from laptops and desktops and are regarded as easier to use. They have instant-on capabilities, longer battery life and touchscreens that users, so far, don't seem to want on desktops or laptops.

The big picture

Overall, IDC said tablet shipments will grow by 58.7% in 2013, reaching 229.3 million tablets, an increase from 144.5 million last year.

Meanwhile, PC shipments in 2013 will fall by 7.8%, the second consecutive year of negative growth, IDC said, as users delay PC purchases and turn to tablets and smartphones for more of their computing needs. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in workplaces is adding to the PC decline.

In its forecast, IDC said there will be 187.4 million laptops shipped in 2013. Desktop PCs will account for 134.4 million shipments in 2013. IDC expects tablets to outpace the entire PC market (both laptops and desktops) by 2015.

IDC said in a statement that everyday computing involves accessing the Web, connecting to social media, sending emails and using app functions that favor tablets and that don't require the computing power or local storage available with a laptop or desktop. Users haven't given up on desktops and laptops for more intensive tasks, such as creating spreadsheets, IDC said, but those tasks are taking up less computing time on average and users rely on older PCs when doing so.

"Tablets surpassing [laptops] in 2013 and total PCs in 2015 marks a significant change in consumer attitudes about compute devices and the applications and ecosystems that power them," said Ryan Reith, an IDC analyst.

"PCs will [still] have an important role in this new era of computing, especially among business users. But for many consumers, a tablet is a simple and elegant solution for core use cases there were previously addressed by the PC."

IDC's PC forecast chart
IDC's PC forecast shows a rise in tablet shipments through 2017.
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