3 reasons why tablets thrive while PCs dive

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

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On price

IDC says the worldwide average selling price for tablets is expected to drop by 10.8% in 2013 to $381. That's 60% of the average expected PC selling price in 2013 of $635.

In coming years, tablet prices will decline even further, IDC said. Low cost Android tablets, some for as little as $100, are fueling the price reductions.

Apple is likely to stay at the top in tablet quality and in higher pricing. Despite higher prices, company has still found success in selling iPads in the U.S. education market, Reith said. A new iPad mini now starts at $329, but some Android white-box tablets are selling by the millions to governments in India and Indonesia for education purposes, priced at just $100 apiece.

"Compared to the iPad mini, a three times increase in price is a big difference," Reith said. "Even if a student got a new Android tablet once a year, that low price could be justified."

On size

IDC noted that the original 9.7-in. iPad was perceived as the sweet spot for tablets, but then 7-in. Android tablets began gaining traction in the market. Apple's response was a 7.9-in. iPad mini released late in 2012.

In just two quarters, shipments of sub-8-in.-tablets soared and overtook larger tablets. For all of 2013, about 55% of tablets will be under 8 inches in size, while 43% will be 8 to 11 inches, and just 2% will be greater than 11 inches. In 2017, sub 8-in. tablets will comprise 57% of the market, while 8 in. to 11-in. tablets will take 37% and tablets of 11 inches or more will account for 6%, according to IDC.

Tablets are generally thinner than laptops and usually much lighter. The average 7-in. tablet is .9 pounds, while the average 10-in. tablet is 1.4 pounds, according to Compreviews. By comparison, a sub-notebook with less than a 10.5-in. screen can weigh just under 3.5 pounds, and ultrabook laptops can weigh from two to four pounds.

Ultrabooks are still a small share of the market,and many workers and consumers still carry older laptops that weigh from 4 to 6 pounds, Reith said.

On functionality

There are many reasons that tablet functionality is perceived as better than that on a laptop or desktop, especially for mobile users. Some analysts summarize all these features under "ease of use."

One reason is the instant-on capability of a tablet, compared to one or more minutes for booting a laptop, analysts said.

Battery life can also be substantially better with a tablet, with some Windows Surface RT tablet users getting 14 hours of battery life, compared with less than a full work day on most laptops, often only four to six hours.

Touchscreen capability on a tablet is another change from older laptops and desktops. For workers who prefer a physical keyboard for writing longer emails and other tasks, many tablets support such a device, although often at an added cost.

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