According to appleoutsider.de Apple Mac computers retain the same anemic 4-5% market share they have always had. They remain too expensive, too exclusive, too restrictive, and too limited compared to their competition to become widely popular. If you factor in iPad sales, however, Apple becomes the market leader, even exceeding current PC market leader HP.
So is this a comparison of apples to apples (excuse please) when facotring in the iPad? Or is it Apple’s apples and oranges vs. everyone else’s apples that are really being compared. Tablet sales for other vendors are pretty negligible, with Apple dominating the market, even if you factor in the next best seller, Amazon’s Kindle Fire. No one would compare owning/using a Kindle Fire to owning using a desktop or laptop computer, but many people would and do compare the iPad to a desktop or laptop. Can the iPad really be a desktop/laptop replacement?
In one respect the difference hinges on what have been called “lean-forward” vs. “lean-back” activities. A computer is a lean-forward device. The idea is that the computer is essentially a lean-forward device, meant to be used creatively to interact with all sorts of media, email and other documents, graphics, videos, audio recordings, etc. While the skill set of many users limits this list to email and other documents, that does not change the essence of the device.
Lean-back devices, on the other hand, are content consumption devices, the TV being the quintessential example. People with cameras, audio recording equipment, and computers create things for lean-back users to consume.
Clearly, if given a preference, few would choose their desktop or laptop as a consumption device because of its bulk, screen-size, batter/life or other power connection exigencies. It’s very multitasking nature make it pretty inappropriate for consuming content intended for entertainment. How would you feel about your TV if you had to install 7 security patches and update its critical components each time you started it up?
But is the iPad really just a lean-back device? No, not really, and here is why it is bound to go on selling more and more while traditional computing devices, and even the newer ultrabooks that will incorporate touch sensitivity will not. The scope and capability of apps for the iPad have expanded so dramatically over its short history that they now rival many desktop apps for most creative uses. Perhaps they aren’t entirely there yet, but they are coming close. A user with apps like iPhoto, Snapseed, SonicPics, iStopMotion, GarageBand and iMovie can be just as creative (for most purposes) as one with the equivalent Photoshop, SoundForge, or Premiere can on a PC or Mac, and for far less cost with a far shorter learning curve. Other things being equal, text production, including email and full-length documents with the Pages app, are equivalent to working on a PC also, if you have an external, bluetooth keyboard paired with the iPad. Add to this the ability to also consume media in a lean-back fashion and you have a superior device that really can, or shortly will, replace the PC.
Will the new ultrabooks eclipses the iPad? I think it unlikely. First, the iPad has an enormous head start and any competing product will have a very steep uphill path to become competitive. The iPad also has the infrastructure in the iTunes app store to keep it on top. Since many of the ultrabooks will be Windows 8-based, you can count on Microsoft’s traditional bungling when they are introduction later this year. Because of its legacy associations Microsoft seems to believe that a computing device should do all the traditional things AND be a lean-back device too. Where they abandoned this philosophy with the XBox they succeeded wildly, but because the coming ultrabooks are intended for a traditional computing audience I predict very limited success. You can already see the crippling legacy baggage in the schizophrenic nature of the consumer preview of Windows 8.
The Android-based competition where it attempts head-to-head features (as with the Samsung Galaxy tab family) has been notably unsuccessful in competing against the iPad and will continue to be so, even with really creative efforts like the Asus Transformer series. Even with really good hardware, the Android infrastructure is not nearly as good as the iPad, and its various sub-flavors are a very big deterrent to success.
So do I want to throw away my PC and use the iPad exclusviely? Yes, I’d like to, but iPad app development is not quite there yet for me, and of course I often need true multitasking. But I know quite a few people who do not, and do not do a great deal of true multitasking and whose graphics creation/editing needs are slight. For them, the iPad really could replace the PC except for the exclusivity of iOS. This is the real obstacle to total dominance by the iPad. Apple insists on the “closed ecosystem” that only supports its own approved software standards (no Flash, no Silverlight, for example), which means that many of the legacy investments you have come to depend on are not available on the iPad. This is a situation in transition, of course, as most content continues the relentless move to the cloud and more open standards, but for now it is still a hurdle that prevents the adoption of a single tablet computing device: the iPad.