At the close of 2012, market intelligence firm ABI Research estimates nearly 200 million tablets will have shipped worldwide since 2009 and an additional 1 billion tablets are forecasted to ship over the next 5 years.
That’s 200 million tablets per year for the next five, which is the number that have sold to date.
It’s hard to minimize the impact of this transition. Tablets are proximal devices, like smartphones and to a lesser extent the ultralight laptops (like my Air). These are devices that we carry around with us, always within reach, the first recourse when we need to catch up, look up, or pay up. Desktop PCs seem as distant in use patterns as going to the library: the desktop PC is upstairs, or in another room. Once you buy a tablet, the desktop’s gathering dust, and then a year later you donate it to a charity to get the space back on your desk.
In less than five years, individual ownership of desktop devices will fall to near zero, and even niches like gaming and video production will transition to tablets.
The impacts of this transition will be profound. One implication: as more people transition to tablets with built-in data connectivity and as phone companies roll out more capable wireless solutions, we will start to see a turning away from cable to the home: not just for TV, but for internet. People will always have their connectivity with them. And instead of a cable bringing internet to your living room, users will wirelessly stream TV, video, and movies from their tablets to the display on the wall.
Notably, the cable companies seem oblivious to this transition, and I’m not even certain how many of the tablet manufacturers see it.