USA: Perhaps the most-watched system trend in personal computing today is the meteoric growth of the touch-screen tablet computers, which have become a major force in the large consumer market for portable computers that run multimedia applications and connect wirelessly to the Internet.
In 2011, total personal computer units (including tablets) is forecast to climb to 414 million systems worldwide, which would be a 13 percent increase over 366 million in 2010 (see figure). However, if tablet computers are excluded from the market total, PC unit shipments are expected to grow by only a little more than 1 percent in 2011 to 353 million systems compared to 349 million in 2010.
Sales of touch-screen tablets are accelerating the overall growth in portable computers, but these systems are also cutting into consumer purchases of standard keyboard-operated notebooks—especially netbooks, which briefly fueled portable PC shipments several years ago. Worldwide purchases of touch-screen tablet computers are expected to increase at a CAGR of 81 percent between 2010 and 2015, while standard notebook PCs (including netbooks) are forecast to grow an annual average rate of slightly more than 7 percent in this time period.
The sharp upswing in tablet sales is undercutting growth of standard PCs. The look and feel of tablets, along with slick marketing campaigns by Apple and competitors, has convinced a growing number of consumers to buy touch-screen systems instead of new standard notebooks. In many cases, touch-screen tablets are not completely replacing the home PC, but they are delaying purchases of new notebooks and desktop computers.
Keyboard computers still are needed by most PC users because they are better suited for certain tasks--such as typing regular-length documents or e-mails, working on spreadsheets, or creating new multimedia content. IC Insights believes about one quarter of the 2011 tablets were bought by consumers in lieu of notebooks, and that percent is expected to grow to about one third in next few years. It is still believed that most homes will still need at least one standard PC to handle all computing applications in the future.