Touchscreen capability on a tablet is another change from older laptops and desktops. For workers who prefer a physical keyboard for writing longer emails and other tasks, many tablets support such a device, although often at an added cost.
There are also Windows 8 laptops and desktops with touchscreens running on an X86 chip, which would seem to give the touchscreen an advantage over the more traditional PC form factors. But Reith said that's not been the case, as "there's been very little demand for this Windows 8 platform."
The average consumer or BYOD worker with money to spend on consumer electronics will choose a device with a lower price and greater portability than a touchscreen laptop or PC. "The trend is really about mobile, and tablets are more mobile," he said.
In work places, tablets are good enough for many work tasks, and have been "additive, rather than replacing PCs," Reith said. Having a tablet with a keyboard to use in a coffee shop is more mobile and convenient but also means there's less wear-and-tear on the PC desktop when it is used.
The Windows 8 effect
"The corporate world isn't touching Windows 8," Reith said. Many corporate IT buyers are paying for Windows 8 licenses on new laptops or desktops and then rolling the new machines back to Windows 7. That phenomenon means that there is more room for workers to supplement their laptops or desktops with iOS and Android tablets.
"The consumer-worker has a real voice in what's happening in the work force, and even C-level execs want to use their tablets on the network," Reith said. "Streaming music and video, email and Web browsing are all things I can do on a tablet, and it's just more comfy to sit on a couch and look at a tablet than a laptop."
Despite lack of corporate interest in Windows 8 on desktops and laptops, IDC's updated tablet forecast increased for Windows 8 tablets running x86 to about 10 million shipped for all of 2013, an increase from an older forecast of 5.5 million. Windows RT tablets, however, were reduced downward in the new forecast for 2013, from about 4 million shipped to just over 3 million, Reith said. "We're seeing RT less and less," he said.
Some contrarian notes
In addition to price, function and size, tablets also allow easy access to cheap and fun apps that aren't always available on laptops or desktops, added Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.
Gold said that while tablets might be on an ascending sales curve, there are still many functions where more work is needed. As such there will be a long life for big desktops, and IDC agreed.
"You also have to have a list of things that tablets are not good at: Complex content creation, editing complex documents and spreadsheets, running databases and running off-line complex apps," Gold said.
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