The Terrible Tablet Tsunami Two

On June 18, 2012, I wrote about the changeover from PCs (desktop and notebooks personal computers) to tablets in an article entitled “The Terrible Tablet Tsunami and the Future of Computing“. Today the trend toward tablets continues — only more so., has been kind enough to consolidate several tablet bullet points, with sources, into an infographic that can be viewed here. Let’s take a look at a few of their key findings.

In The Beginning

In April 2010, the tablet category was reborn with the launch of Apple’s iPad. People who compare the iPad to previous iterations of the tablet are comparing apples to oranges (all puns intended). The iPad had many features that made it successful but its true genius lay in the twin combination of an entirely touch user input combined with an entirely new, built-from-the-ground-up, operating system designed to take advantage of that touch input. As successful as the iPad has already been, we still don’t seem to fully grasp how quickly it has changed the face of computing and how rapidly the pace of that change is accelerating.

Within 18 months, tablet penetration among U.S. households hit 11%. No other technology – not electricity, telephones, computers, mobile phones, internet or smartphones – has penetrated society so quickly.

Fastest adopted technology EVER. Step back, take a moment and think about that for a second.


Tablet sales are expected to edge out PC sales by 2016.

The personal computer was introduced in the mid-seventies – some 35 years ago. The iPad was introduced in April 2010 – some 30 months ago. It will only take the tablet 6 to 7 years in order to match the annual sales of the 35 year old PC.


77% of tablet users report that their desktop and laptop usage decreased after getting a tablet.

In my article: “The iPad Put A Fork In Personal Computing“, I compared the PC to a knife and the tablet to a fork. I attempted to point out that the fork does not replace the knife – but it does decrease one’s use of, and reliance upon, the knife. The exact same thing is now happening with tablets and computers. The evidence is indisputable – but it’s being disputed anyway. (See “Beneath Contempt”, below).

1 in 4 owners say their tablet is now their primary computer.

One. In. Four.

How many times have we heard – and will we have to hear – naysayers declare that the tablet cannot replace the PC as one’s primary computer? Here’s a clue for the naysayers: Not only CAN the tablet replace the PC for some computer users, it’s happening and it’s happening right now.

And not only is it happening, it’s happening FAST. In my article: “The PC is the Titanic and the Tablet is the Iceberg.“, I focused on the the fact that the bulk of the tasks that the tablet excels at lies beneath the PC’s areas of expertise and competence. The tablet isn’t becoming the primary computer for many DESPITE its less sophisticated, simpler nature – it’s becoming the primary computer for many BECAUSE of its less complex and simpler nature.

3 in 4 American enterprises have adopted the tablet in some way.

The Enterprise is notoriously conservative and slow to adopt new technologies. You can always count on the Enterprise to adopt the newest technology – after they’ve tried everything else. The fact that three-quarters of American enterprises have already moved to adopt the tablet in its first two and a half years of existence is truly astonishing.


Beneath Contempt

“The next big thing is always beneath contempt.” ~Clayton Christensen

Many of us are in denial about the rapid ascendency of tablets. Even as the shadow of the onrushing Tidal Wave blots out our sun, we insist that the PC will always be the center of the computing world.

Analysis isn’t about proving who is right, it is about discovering what is right. It is not our job to have the facts on our side. It is our job to be on side with the facts.

Most importantly, we need to stop the insults and the contempt for others. We should not assume that others are ignorant just because we don’t understand them. When we don’t understand others, we should assume that is is we who lack understanding.

The Tablet Tsunami

The tablet tsunami isn’t coming, it’s here. We can ride the wave…or we can wave goodbye any chance of understanding the future of computing.

Published by

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

11 thoughts on “The Terrible Tablet Tsunami Two”

  1. I would only argue that the tablet tsunami was probably enabled to a great extent by the smartphone revolution. After all, both the smartphones and tablets, whether they be iOS or Android, are based on the two most popular smartphone operating systems. However, Apple and the iPad has definitely secured the upper end of the tablet market and with it’s retina display is second to none in visual display. I believe, personally having been in software development for 30 years, that the PC has evolved like the dinosaurs evolved into birds. Today my primary PC sits in my pocket and is connected 24 x 7 to the internet, except it is so much more capable than the desktops and laptops that litter our house.

    1. “…the tablet tsunami was probably enabled to a great extent by the smartphone revolution.” – althotos

      That’s probably true, but it’s also probably irreleveat. I’m sure that the modern vacuum clearner, radio, television, etc. was enabled by the adoption of electricity. Every innovation is enabled, at least in part, by one of its predecessors.

      I like your idea of the evolution of the PC dinosaur into the bird-like pocket computer. There are probably a thousand or more major evolutionary differences between the dinosaurs and the bird. But the key difference was the addition of wings. I believe that “touch” gave the tablet its wings and allowed it to take flight and soar above the rest.

  2. I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “replace.” Although my iPad is what I reach for most when I want to accomplish something, there are very well-defined use cases where both the smartphone and the notebook or desktop is easier and more efficient. People may buy few notebooks and desktops for home use but they won’t get rid of them totally for the simple reason of the size of the work area.

    I suspect what is more likely is that the touch screen on our tablets will take the form of a very large multi-touch trackpad when multi-touch fully arrives in the notebook and desktop form factors. and even when that happens the mouse and the keyboard will have purpose.

    Add to that the legacy application in business and some company is going to be making notebooks and desktops for years to come. I believe one of those companies will most likely STILL be Apple.

  3. Dear, dear, John, you just can’t stop talking about this topic. Tsunami I, Tsunami II, Icebergs, the Fork one, the recent “Selling Like Mad” are all about the same thing.

    Just when I think you have masterfully covered this subject before, and I think there can’t be anymore to say about it, you surprise me with yet another angle that builds your case (you being a lawyer and all). Just when I think you are about to overstate your case, you add another significant layer of brilliant opinion. Brilliant, because you can’t find a comprehensive set of this many articles, regarding such an important topic, anywhere else.

    I profess to be an investor, and some call me a dreamer (guilty as charged), and I just can’t get enough of this topic. Many may see as a series of articles about tablets. I see them as a predictor of the future of computing. The Wintel platform has ruled computing for decades. The Wintel platform is being challenged by mobile devices and IMHO Wintel has no chance to be mainstream in the future. Mobile will win and Ballmer and the others will have lost. No, Wintel won’t go away and it will stay useful, just like IBM’s computers are still useful. The tablet, not the phone, is where the critical battle is being fought. IMHO, if Apple wins the tablet war, it will be the next Wintel for decades to come.

    Please keep up this dialog. Us dreamers “like” it. Us investors “love” it.

    1. I too, Grwisher, suffer the hunger as both an investor and fan. It is because I know the quality, have the earnest to get my equipment in order and then lack the technical mind (I am easily bored by repetition) to continue the effort to tinker once I have something working. It was the same way with wiring (now old time) stereo systems, most things electrical, engines and plumbing. I can get the jobs done but lack the interest to re-fix what should stay fixed.

      For the most part, Apple stays fixed, comes (for the better part) with regular updates and allows one to do the jobs such equipment is intended to do. Were others from the competition able to do this, I might choose to be polygamous.

      My iPad now does most what I want it to do but I have to return to my MB when I want to ponder on paper instead of in head or by lip. (Not everyone in my domain wants to know what’s rattling round up there.)

      And like you, quality reviews confirm my own suspicions, nay beliefs, that one company alone is rewiring this world for the better.

  4. “Many of us…insist that the PC will always be the center of the computing world.”

    I believe the PC is the best choice for what is referred to as heavy lifting. (Mathematica, for example.) If that’s what someone is focused on, then – for them – the PC may remain the center of their computing world.

  5. I have agreed before that tablets are the next step in personal computing, and I appreciate your attempt to provide some data, but I think you’re going a bit overboard with your deductions and unfair comparisons.

    “Tablet sales are expected to edge out PC sales by 2016.”
    Not surprising. Current day computers perform good enough for almost everyone – unless it breaks down you can now do longer than the (used to be) customary 3 years with one. Tablets are still evolving, and not everyone has one yet.

    The expectation is plausible, although I’m missing the margin of error. Precise predictions have a habit of being wrong. I prefer ranges and scenario’s. Also, how do things look per region? How much are the sales figures explained by Asia and Brazil, and how much by the EU and the US?

    The comparison with the introduction of computers is strange. In that comparison the tablet is ‘simply’ a computer in a new format. More on that later.

    “77% of tablet users report that their desktop and laptop usage decreased after getting a tablet.”
    Again not surprising. People have limited time and obviously tablets are being sold and used. One question that matters in this context is by how much desktop and laptop usage has decreased? If it is 1% then how much does it matter? A second relevant question is which usage scenario’s were impacted.

    “1 in 4 owners say their tablet is now their primary computer.”
    Again, more details please. Did these owners have a different computer before the iPad? ( In parts of Asia and Afrika mobile phones are (/ used to be) often the first computer. ) If so, what kind of computers are these? How often were these computers used, and for what purpose? How much did their owners spend on computers?

    Tablets are now recognized as computers, but smart phones never were. What would the computer market shares look like over time if smart phones were included in the mix? I’m guessing that in particular regions and demographics desktop/laptop computers have frequently been secondary computer for some time already – or been close to it.

    “The tablet isn’t becoming the primary computer for many DESPITE its less sophisticated, simpler nature – it’s becoming the primary computer for many BECAUSE of its less complex and simpler nature.”
    100% agreed.

    “3 in 4 American enterprises have adopted the tablet in some way.”
    The 75% of the Fortune 500, right? I vaguely recall reading that somewhere.

    ‘… in some way.’ is a rather broad. I doubt the iPad has come to replace laptops, or even come to complement these at each of those firms (occasional usage exempted). The issue being the IT department wanting ( or being appointed the task ) to keep a firm grasp on the technology in the firm and having a vested interest in sticking to the windows environment.

    Perhaps they all got a few iPads lying around, but much more likely the vast majority has developed an app. Making an app should have been a no-brainer for most Fortune 500 firms when the iPhone was put on the market. Those that failed to pay attention then were hardly going to be left behind again with the launch of the iPad.

    Considering the little time and effort it takes to develop an app it is surprising it took them this long. Developing an app has no significant cost and does not have any significant impact on other projects. There are no existing assets in the picture that create barriers to adoption.

    “Within 18 months, tablet penetration among U.S. households hit 11%. No other technology – not electricity, telephones, computers, mobile phones, internet or smartphones – has penetrated society so quickly.”
    That is hardly surprising. Firstly, most of these examples are large technological systems, whereas the iPad is more a standalone product. You couldn’t go to a store and simply buy electricity or a telephone line. Yes the iPad depends on an eco-system, but that eco-system was already well established with the iPod and iPhone. Prior to electricity there was no electricity net. Secondly, the iPad is familiar. Consumers are familiar with computers and smart phones, which makes it easier for them to accept and understand tablets. Thirdly – all innovation is sped up by modern communications. Visibility is one of the 5 common factors that influence adoption rate.

    The iPad is a great product and innovation, but give the many shoulders it stands on some credit for the categorically much more difficult innovation challenges these technologies faced. In fact, the iPad hardly has any innovation challenges in comparison. These challenges were mostly already solved with the iPod and iPhone.

    1. Apple and Steve Jobs in particular have said many times the iPad was first but the hardware was not ready so they came out with the iPhone. So the iPhone actually came from the iPad.

  6. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article! It is the little changes which will make the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

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