First it was Mac or PC. Then desktop or notebook. Now the big question when purchasing a computer is whether to invest in a netbook or tablet. If Forrester Research is correct, chances are you'll go for the tablet.
In its latest report on the PC market, Forrester predicts that by 2012, tablets will outsell netbooks, growing at a compound annual rate of 42 percent between 2010 and 2015.
And with good reason: The sleek design of tablet computers such as the Apple iPad offers a wow factor that netbooks don't have. For the business user, a tablet computer provides a larger, seamless viewing area for presentations.
Netbooks are lightweight and easily portable, but so are tablets. About the only thing a netbook features over a tablet is a keyboard, but advances in touchscreen technology are making that less of an issue.
Forrester also noted that laptops will continue to lead the market in sales, representing 42 percent of U.S. computer sales by 2015. Tablet sales will be a distant second at 23 percent, followed by desktops at 18 percent and netbook sales coming in dead last at 17 percent. Based on these numbers, one can only assume that corporate America will be doing most of the computer purchasing if desktop sales are slated to outpace netbooks.
Tablet computers are not new, but their design has evolved to the point where the technology seems new again. And certainly Apple's entry into the tablet space has sparked a new interest in the technology. The emergence of e-readers such as Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader has also helped introduce the form factor to the masses. It's easy to see why Forrester predicts such great success for tablet computers.
I don't see an early demise for netbooks, however, especially if their design evolves to make them more attractive to corporate users. Maybe one day netbooks can act as dummy terminals at the desk, connecting directly to corporate data center and cloud-based applications and thereby eliminating the need for super-large storage capacity and computing power. When the netbook leaves the office, it becomes a self-contained computing apparatus, much like today, but also with the option of connecting to cloud-based applications if necessary.
Both tablets and netbooks have their strengths, and both can work well for the corporate space. I wouldn't discount one over the other, especially now. Relatively speaking, both technologies are in their infancy. And I predict both will be around for a long time.