There is a great quote from Mahatma Gandhi that, perhaps not surprisingly, is most often used in the United States by long shot political candidates:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Gandhi’s quote is very relevant to the news that IDC for the first time is moving smartphones and tablets ahead of PC and laptop shipments. Tablets are the main driver of the growth, according to InformationWeek’s commentary on the news.
Tablets have, of course, been around for many years. But the “modern” tablet era began with the iPad less than three-and-a-half years ago. In other words, the ignore, laugh, and fight stages passed quickly.
During the fourth quarter, IDC projects, sales of tablets will be greater than the combined sales of desktops and laptops. This will be true on an annual basis in 2015, the firm says. Indeed, the company says that the real fight that will emerge is between small and large tablets, not tablets and legacy devices.
The momentum likely won’t stop. Microsoft—fresh off the news this that Steve Ballmer is retiring and the company has agreed to acquire Nokia’s phone business—is set to try to get into the tablet wars in a meaningful way. Investors.com and other sites report that next week Microsoft will introduce the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro. Investors.com sites reports that the heart of the announcement is expected to be improved components, not a change in size of the display.
It is interesting to consider the IDC findings in the context of the emerging fate of Dell, another iconic company. Michael Dell earlier this month successfully fended off investor Carl Icahn and is taking the company private in conjunction with Silver Lake. (A series of tweets by Dell sent to a Forbes’ reporter provides insight into his thinking.) The idea, according to The Guardian, is to redirect the company without having to deal with Wall Street’s short-term thinking.
The bottom line is that a lot of the drama surrounding computing today is driven by tablets:
Other companies besides Dell have been hit due to the lack of a successful tablet strategy. Taiwan's Acer, one of the five biggest PC makers, has seen profits collapse since 2011, and revenues have shrunk for five quarters in a row. HP, which bought Palm for $1bn but wrote off its TouchPad tablet in August 2011 after less than two months, is also struggling to make a profit from PCs.
Put more simply, we are in a tablet- and smartphone-dominated world. At the same time, the focus has moved significantly away from a laser focus on Apple products. The five best new tablets at the IFA 2013 show earlier this month in Berlin, according to TabTimes’ Doug Drinkwater, were the Toshiba Encore, the 2014 version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 2 Pro, the Archos 101 XS 2 and LG G Pad.