A few years ago I started making the point that our behavioral research findings kept indicating that once consumers started using iPads that their PC usage declined. My overall point was not that the iPad was being purchased to replace a PC but that it was being purchased because they could do more with it than their PC. It covers the basic needs of web browsing, social apps, word processing and more, but also into the areas of e-reader, portable dvd players, art canvas and more. When you see how versatile the app ecosystem has turned the iPad into, it is no wonder it is selling in droves and effecting PC sales.
When I wrote about my experience with the iPad, I took the angle that for most it will become their primary computer. I took a lot less flak this time around than when I made the same claim when the iPad first came out. But there is still the debate. To this discussion of iPad vs. PC i’ll add a little more context.
First, there is a gigantic segment of the PC market who we classify as lite computing users. A few years ago when processor specs got to a point where each increase was hardly noticed many in our industry started saying PC performance is good enough. While I don’t entirely agree, the point was that for most consumers they did have enough performance simply because they weren’t doing a whole of performance intensive tasks with their PC. I blame this on software/apps actually particularly in the Windows ecosystem. This is one of the fundamental reasons why Netbooks took off the way they did. Most consumers realized they didn’t need all the power being pumped into PCs at their high price points and they reasoned a Netbook was all they needed. This didn’t last long and I blame the form factor and the apps.
Enter the tablet. All the same fundamental observations remain yet this form factor is more inviting than a PC and the touch interface makes it a delight to use. The app ecosystem grows and depth and breadth turn it into something much more than a PC while all the basic PC tasks remain intact. This realization by most consumers that their usage with the iPad remained high and PC usage declined was a key point.
This is why for many consumers the iPad is easily the mass market PC for the masses. In fact, with the iPad in the lead, tablets are becoming and will increasingly become the most important software development platform for the advancement of personal computing.
Based on how I look at things, I decided to start tracking the iPad as a segment with the overall PC segment. Based on my estimates of the mix of full size iPad’s in the market over the past few quarters, I estimate that the full size iPad to account for 8% of the PC sales over the past few quarters. And with PCs declining and my optimism that the iPad Air will move in significant volumes, I expect Apple’s iPad share of computing to increase.