Apple CEO predicts tablets will outsell PCs

Apple CEO Tim Cook believes that tablets such as the iPad will outsell PCs in the coming years thanks to the explosive popularity of one-panel slates as well as innovation from tablet makers and app developers.

“From the first day [the iPad] shipped, we thought that the tablet market would become larger than the PC market,” Cook said Tuesday during the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. “I feel that stronger today than I did then.” 

Following its 2010 launch, the iPad quickly became one of Apple’s most popular products, outselling the Mac in nearly every quarter, and, since mid-2010, even the iPod. More than 55 million Apple tablets have been sold to date. “This 55 million is something no one would have guessed, including us,” Cook said, noting that it took the iPhone three years to sell 55 million, while the iPad did it in less than two. “It’s on a trajectory that’s off the charts.”

All about innovation

But sales are only half the picture, Apple’s chief also pointed to the innovation surrounding tablet hardware and the excitement among developers to build new apps for the devices as a big driver for the tablet’s success. “If we had a meeting today in this hotel and we invited everybody that’s working on the coolest PC apps to come to the meeting, you might not find anybody in the meeting,” Cook said. “But if you did that same thing for iOS or that other operating system [Android] … you couldn’t get everybody in this hotel … that’s where the innovation is.”

But don’t peg Cook as someone who thinks the PC is on its way to the grave. Apple’s chief believes there’s still life left in desktop and laptop PCs, but the rise of one-panel touch tablets will eventually push the PC off its perch as most people’s go-to computing device. 

Of course, the end of the PC era is an argument you’d expect to hear from Apple, since its dominant position among tablet makers would make the company a big winner in the so-called post-PC era. But it’s not just Apple that believes the importance of the PC is waning. Market research firm IDC in September predicted that by 2015 the majority of U.S. Internet users would get online from smartphones and tablets instead of PCs. Gartner, another research firm, predicts that over the next five to 10 years PCs will incorporate tablet-like features to stay relevant. To a certain extent this is already happening thanks to Intel’s Ultrabook effort with devices such as the Asus Zenbook and the popularity of Apple’s MacBook Air lineup. 

Cook’s comments come just a few weeks before Apple is rumored to be unveiling the third iteration of the iPad on March 7. The next iPad is expected to have a faster processor and higher-resolution screen. 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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