The Competition Between Tablets and Notebooks

Part of the OS wars is definitely the competition between tablets and notebooks. In a recent bit of spam, a retailer sent me these choices:

  • “New! Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Now available! Starting at $199.99”
  • “Save $49 – Acer Gateway 15.6″ notebook for $379.99”

The consumers and retailers know this. They have choice and are often enough choosing tablets that Wintel PCs are way down in shipments for the last year. It’s even denting M$’s bottom line because a big part of the difference in price between a notebook at rock-bottom price and the tablet running Android/Linux is the price of M$’s licence. Very soon, M$ will have to cut its licensing fee per PC. OEMs are demanding that. Otherwise they will just ship */Linux devices.

The time is ripe for consumers to demand GNU/Linux PCs. Retailers are ready to listen because they cannot sell “8” and stuff with “7” is sluggish. This effect is even larger than the shift from “desktop” to “notebook”. It makes the netbook seem like small change by comparison. All major OEMs are shipping some GNU/Linux. It’s just a matter of time before they ship a lot.


IDC seems to project that tablets will become 50% or more of PC shipments.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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11 Responses to The Competition Between Tablets and Notebooks

  1. Dann says:

    I’ll buy a Vivaldi Spark when it comes out. Otherwise, my laptop functions just fine. Thinkpad has had tablets out for decades now (X40, X61, X200, etc) of which I have one. I’m still not sold on them, but I do a lot of heavy work on my machines. A tablet would be great for networked streaming of video after a hard day’s work.

    Also: this might interest you pogson if you haven’t seen already:

  2. dougman says:

    Regarding Chromebooks, I was in a hospital over the weekend and I had like 8-10 people ask me about mine.

    Between staff and patients, I have some decent follow-ups pending.


  3. ram says:

    Notebooks locked via UEFI to Microsoft8 are going nowhere. In Australia they are being offered at retail prices that are below their wholesale parts cost, well below. They still may be heading to the tip since it is uneconomic for people to take them apart and try to reuse the parts in something else.

    Chromebooks, on the other hand, are cheap, well built (relatively), and can run ones choice of Linux distribution. Likewise Android/Tizen/Linux tablets can do most things and are very lightweight — far better than lugging a laptop around the City.

  4. bw wrote, “Tablets are great for viewing presentations and lousy for creating them. No one is going to hobble their efforts and use them just because they can save a few hundred bucks on a workstation.”

    There are lots of users of PCs and uses of PCs that don’t involve content-creation. Hooking a keyboard to a tablet will make text no problem at all. Tablets do the usual audio and video without a lot of editing just fine. Check YouTube or other sources on the web. Similarly a mouse can be connected and spreadsheets work well. So, what presentations don’t work with tablets for creation? People used to make presentations with early Pentiums. Remember? Current ARMed tablets rip those machines every way imaginable: compute, storage, networking.

    I could certainly do everything I do with 2 to 4 ARM cores and gigabit/s networking. I can easily extend storage and services over the network just as I might do with any PC.

  5. oiaohm says:

    bw I did not say it would head in the direction of small screens.

    Remember android does support keyboard and mouse even that it does not have many applications targeted for this usage. Tizen also has a docked mode to use full-size keyboard mouse and screen bw.

    Where we are heading it convergence. The capabilities of a tablet/phone device are nowhere near pushing the limit yet.

    bw the free versions of SQL Server are I don’t scale additions. Mind you that crap you made is not much of a barrier really. Spend a few dollars and you can migrate to postgresql/mysql running on mono. Lock-in is reducing all the time bw. Today is mostly a price tag that is paid off in one upgrade cycle.

  6. bw says:

    The on going effects are going to be interesting

    I doubt that myself. Now that my interest is mostly academic anyway, it loses what little sizzle it had for me. The business of selling PCs and servers and software to corporations is in the genre of office automation and there hasn’t been any really big news there other than cloud services for well over a decade. The last evolution was mostly, in my experiences, centered around .NET migrations from stand-alone proprietary C++ programs and VBA constructions.

    This was driven by the low-cost (free to you MySQL wannabes) of SQL Express and Compact Editions and the easy access via .NET classes and simple bindings to a variety of useful controls. There were a ton of aftermarket add-ons for graphic presentations and analysis, too.

    That’s where the real “lock-in” takes effect for Microsoft.

    Office automation has moved from the writing desk and quill pen to the wide-screen LED monitors on PCs today. Doubtless it will evolve still over time, but I do not see it moving in the direction of small displays and clumsy data entry methods characteristic of tablets.

    Tablets are great for viewing presentations and lousy for creating them. No one is going to hobble their efforts and use them just because they can save a few hundred bucks on a workstation. They will give everyone an iPad to take to the conference to view things, though. They were doing that a couple of years ago.

  7. oiaohm says:

    bw the problem is the damage to Microsoft is now starting to show up.

    The on going effects are going to be interesting. Like you cannot say Android is fully designed for desktop usage. Ubuntu and Tizen on the other hand that are closer to a desktop OS. Brings a question when entry cost tablets run a desktop class OS what will be the fall out.

  8. bw says:

    I’d say tablets could easily displace about a third of all PC shipments.

    That may be true as well, but what does that mean to businesses that are concerned with PCs and their use? The changes have been going on for years now and companies have shifted their strategies to suit. They focus on profitable segments and abandon ones that have become losers.

    Client PCs have changed remarkably if you take a longer view than just the past couple of years. Major OEMs are gone or changed via merger, the sameness of ATX style components and cases has given way to a variety of form factors and styling, and much more.

    You have to look to a company’s financial reports to see how well it is coping. When you look at Microsoft, you see that they are faring a lot better than most, with solid performances in the business IT sectors, which is where the market stability and profitability lie.

  9. bw says:

    “Replace” may not be the right word. Try “Displace”.

    I can more or less agree with that. I think that the most significant effect, though, is “Augment”. I have multiple versions of both. Most people I know do as well. How about yourself? You have a “beast”, you say, but do you have a tablet as well?

  10. bw, ignoring the numbers of shipping tablets being comparable to shipping tablets, wrote, “These are not devices that can really replace one another.”

    Tablets and notebooks are both mobile but many humans prefer tablets because they are easier to carry around and use on the bus etc. A much lower price for good tablets is appealing to a huge fraction of society, say, the poor and the young. The young love to touch things. “Replace” may not be the right word. Try “Displace”. There is evidence that 10-15% of users of internet-connected PCs use nothing but a smartphone even in established markets for PCs. There is evidence that emerging markets are skipping all that Wintel bloat to get what they need, small cheap wireless computers.

    From my point of view, Beast, with a huge monitor and curved keyboard works for me. I do type a lot. Many young people care nothing for curved keyboards and can type like lightning on a flat surface as well as a flat keyboard. They don’t need a desktop or notebook PC at all.

    Further, businesses are accepting thin clients and for many uses they don’t care whether those thin clients are tablets, notebooks or desktop shapes.

    I’d say tablets could easily displace about a third of all PC shipments. IDC:“tablet shipments are expected to grow 58.7% year over year in 2013 reaching 229.3 million units, up from 144.5 million units last year. IDC now predicts tablet shipments will exceed those of portable PCs this year, as the slumping PC market is expected to see negative growth for the second consecutive year.”

  11. bw says:

    a big part of the difference in price between a notebook at rock-bottom price and the tablet running Android/Linux is the price of M$’s licence

    So which one did you buy? I think that another, even bigger part of the difference in price is the case and keyboard and drives and bigger and faster CPU and memory and a host of odds and ends.

    These are not devices that can really replace one another.

    All major OEMs are shipping some GNU/Linux. It’s just a matter of time before they ship a lot.

    Only if the consumer demand that you say is “ripe” actually materializes. Such predictions have been made annually for as long as I can remember and Linux is still an unread footnote to consumer history.

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