The hype of a post-PC era
Many analysts and journalists believe the industry is poised to cross over into a brave new post-PC era, with the PC ultimately relegated to little more than niche market status.
However, analyst Jack Gold says he expects PCs to transform and meet mobile in the middle. "This is especially true of notebooks, which have become the majority PC form factor," Gold explained in a recent industry note obtained by TG Daily.
"Can notebooks compete with tablets? Today's tablet (e.g., Apple's iPad, Android-powered devices from Samsung, Motorola, etc., RIM's PlayBook) have much more processing power (CPU and graphics) than previous generations of PCs of just 2-3 years ago. But tablets are not good at everything."
Indeed, according to Gold, current-gen tablets are primarily information and media consumption devices, but highly portable and easy to use. In contrast, PCs are great information and content creation devices, but offer much less portability and are (relatively) more complicated to interact with.
However, says Gold, over the next 1-2 years, this level of complexity will be reduced (e.g., Windows 8 Metro interface), the usability will increase (e.g., touch interfaces) and the portability of design (e.g., Ultrabooks) will move towards the newer user paradigms exhibited in tablets.
"This model has already been established by Apple's MacBook Air, but we do not expect Apple's market share of notebooks to threaten the traditional Windows based PC market in any substantial measure," Gold emphasized.
"What do we expect to take place over the next 1-2 years? Upcoming hybrid designs with today's notebook features coupled with low power, ease of use and the long battery life of tablets and smartphones is what will gain user acceptance. Low power mainline chips from Intel (<15W) and others will give notebook vendors the freedom to move in this direction and away from the high powered (low battery life) designs of current machines."
In addition, says Gold, Windows 8 will allow enough flexibility to change the end user experience while maintaining backwards compatibility with existing productivity and corporate apps. Yes, ARM-based notebooks running Windows 8 should help push the envelope - but will not be fully backwards compatible with existing apps.
As such, Gold estimates that ARM is unlikely to offer sufficient or significant benefits over traditional Intel (or potentially AMD) based systems to garner significant market share - or more than 10%-15% of next-gen notebooks within the next 2-3 years.
"Intel, Microsoft and the notebook vendors will not stand idly by and [should] substantially morph the traditional notebook device to meet the challenge posed by tablets.
"Companies who are now deploying tablets devices may continue to do so, but should look at the upcoming hybrid notebooks that offer both tablet and PC capability as a valid approach to solving many corporate productivity needs. While initial cost of the new devices may be high, we expect prices to fall rapidly, and the ROI for these notebooks to exceed that of tablets for many users," the analyst concluded.