Tablets, PCs & the ‘Aha!’ Moment

This admission will probably ruin my career, but until recently, I've never been clear on the difference between a tablet and a PC. Aren't they both computers? Yes, they are. So why will the success of one mean the death knell for the other?

I finally found a workable definition on the differences buried in a market report (thanks, IHS iSuppli). A PC is targeted toward the creation of content. A tablet is not. A tablet is great for surfing the Internet, accessing information and providing a great user experience. A PC can be used for everything from a simple form letter to writing software code — it's a workhorse.

Aha! Now I get it.

Now what?

Well, armed with this information, I hope to make a better decision next time I'm in an electronics store. In addition to that, I'm going to be a little more critical of market reports that debate the either/or survival viability of the tablet and PC. There's no reason the two can't peacefully coexist in a global consumer electronics market.

For suppliers and manufacturers, though, I can see why the PC-vs.-tablet debate is a difficult issue. Components are so application-specific now, the nuances between a “tablet ready” part and a “PC ready” part can be enormous. The displays targeted at tablets have to be superior. The list can go on and on.

On the factory floor, manufacturers that are big enough can certainly churn out PCs and tablets at the same time. But for smaller EMS companies (that is, everybody that's not {complink 2125|Foxconn Electronics Inc.}), manufacturing lines have to be adjusted depending on whether it's a tablet or a PC you're making today. And when times get tough, both suppliers and manufacturers may have to hedge their bets. Do they dedicate capacity to the proven market (PCs) or go with the hot new device? Sure, it's better to do both, but shortages happen. Tough decisions have to be made.

Right now, there's little indication the market has come to that — components and capacity appear to be in adequate (some say more than adequate) supply. Consumers will be able to get a PC or a tablet if they want one. Whether they will buy both is another question. The global economy — with a few notable exceptions — is still in the tank. US consumer spending continues to decline. For many, it is an either/or choice when it comes to the purchasing decision. Are you creating content or, better, enjoying the content already out there?

Vive la différence!

24 comments on “Tablets, PCs & the ‘Aha!’ Moment

  1. Ariella
    June 24, 2011

    Don't worry, Barbara, I'm sure you're safe. Many people do opt for both. Personally, I only work on a PC, but people who like more specialized gadgets do like to use tablets for particular tasks.

  2. Houngbo_Hospice
    June 24, 2011

    The current computing capability of tablets is so limited that they cannot replace PCs in tasks that demand intense computing resources. Besides, you cannot buy a tablet when you need a PC or a laptop computer. Tablets are great for checking emails, reading electronic books, searching the web, listening to music ect… But I cannot use my iPad for programming or even easily edit text the way I would with a PC. I use to advise people that they can buy a tablet when they've already got a PC or a laptop.

  3. Taimoor Zubar
    June 25, 2011

    “A PC is targeted toward the creation of content. A tablet is not.”

    Interesting post, Barbara. I am not really sure if I agree with the line above. From what I have observed, most tablets are fully capable of features that allow content generation. This can range from composing word documents to making spreadsheets and presentations. Because it's only a luxury so far and has not made much progress within the enterprise, it's majorly being used for web surfing and entertainment. However, even with that, people are using it for content generation such as writing blog posts, uploading content over social media etc.


  4. Anand
    June 25, 2011

    Whether they will buy both is another question.

    I am sure users will buy both. PC is must for high computational work, tablet is must to surf when you are commuting. I am sure we have enough market to sell both PC and tablet.

  5. t.alex
    June 26, 2011

    Barbara, thanks for the interesting observations. My only worry is soon there is a blurred line between pc and tablet. Tablet will soon become powerful enough for everything and that is when people will be confused again.

  6. prabhakar_deosthali
    June 26, 2011

    In my opinion the tablets have brought in some new customers who felt that the PC was only for tech-savvy. Thus though there may be some people who may have migrated to tablets because they served their purpose in a more simpler way, these new users far outnumber those who have migrated from PC. Thus the overall numbers have increased. Like mobile phone has not replaced all those landlines , tablets and PCs will coexist for sometime to come and the suppliers will definitely be benefitted by the increase in their business.

  7. mario8a
    June 26, 2011


    Would be possible, maybe the same user will have the need to have both? PC and a Table and will they be a complement instead of one or the other?



  8. itguyphil
    June 26, 2011

    I've come to the conclusion that smartphones are just as capable as the tablet to get most tasks done. The work that needs a wider screen on real estate, no. But most need-to-do things can get done with the plethora of apps available.

  9. Nemos
    June 26, 2011

    I think the dilemma “Tablets or Pcs” is a fake dilemma. And probably it is another marketing trick to promote new products as the Tablets are. We have discussed here ( a lot of times about the future of Pcs and whether the tablets will be the replace of Pc. And if you read carefully the articles and the comments from the readers you will find that the two products have a lot of differences, and we can't compare them.

  10. Houngbo_Hospice
    June 26, 2011

    “However, even with that, people are using it for content generation such as writing blog posts, uploading content over social media etc.”


    I agree that with some ingenuity (and some pain) you can use your tablets to generate some web content and do some text processing tasks. But computing “activities” are not limited to that. Besides having used an iPad for some time now, I can tell you that, it is not easy to write a “complete” blog with that. Navigating between webpages is not easy and text formatting is a nightmare.

  11. electronics862
    June 27, 2011

    If you are looking for a portable, efficient and smart device, then you should go for a tablet PC,If you like a lot into heavy-duty gaming, some serious programming and similar other works, need software and hardware support, then laptop will suit you more..

  12. Ashu001
    June 27, 2011


    Thanks for sharing with us the Key differences and areas where Ipads(despite having the hottest technology) are very,very inferior to Laptops.

    Please elaborate further on this issue here.



  13. Adeniji Kayode
    June 27, 2011

    I agree with the fact that there exist a thin line between PC and Tablets right now but its just that i,m not sure if and when that thin line will be dissolved.

    I said that because i was wondering when Tablets will start being able to handle task like Corel draw and other related packages. Are we saying these packages will no longer be useful in the nearest future or tablets will find a way around them?

  14. Adeniji Kayode
    June 27, 2011

    I certainly agree with you, that was a ggod point too. At least for the fact that landlines stilll offer a more cheaper services, the mobile phones still have to coexist with them. The little differences between PC and tablet is enough for both to coexist without them loosing their relevancy    

  15. Adeniji Kayode
    June 27, 2011

    I agree with you on that. If a user has the two they will definately complement each other.

  16. Himanshugupta
    June 27, 2011

    @Nemos, i would rather say (with all the definitions including Barbara's) that tablet is subset of PC. All the work that can be done on tablet can be done on PC. I agree with you that tablet is just another market advertisement to create more space in the electronic market, just like netbook did with the only exception that there is no apple netbook. 

    I do not think that the debate is going to subside in recent future.

  17. Himanshugupta
    June 27, 2011

    the question of whether people will have a need of both PC and tablet can better be answered by surveying people who have experienced with both. Either they have owned both devices at some point of time, have used them simultaneously or still have them. The catch is to answer survey from neutral point of view. Can we start such a survey on EBN?

  18. Tim Votapka
    June 28, 2011

    Laptop or tablet? The two will co-exist until the tablet can boast all the capabilities of a laptop. So I don't think it's a question of one wiping out the other. What is interesting to note here is the big winner of the current scene which people rarely think about – the battery manufacturers who gain from every ka-ching we hear at the cash register. Surely, these suppliers have gained big time from the growth of tablets, iPods and smart phones.

  19. Barbara Jorgensen
    June 28, 2011

    I agree smartphones should be included in any debate regarding computers/computing. But they don't seem to be as much of a “threat” to PCs as tablets seem to be…

    I like the fact that some of our readers even doubt there is an either/or dilemma. PC makers and consumer electronics compnaies are not stupid–if you can offer a PC and a tablet, why not? I think for the user, it completely depends on what they plan to use the device for.

  20. abraxalito
    June 28, 2011

    You're right, its not an either/or dilemma, the market will decide that for many applications, a notebook is too expensive, too battery hungry and too heavy. So whereas its PCs which have benefitted from the economies of scale in the past, in future tablets will get that market boost factor and PCs will eventually be a niche product. Same thing that happened to minicomputers all those years ago.

  21. stochastic excursion
    June 29, 2011

    The tablet doesn't do a lot of heavy lifting, such as legacy hardware interfaces, but it makes up for that in large part due to its mobility.  The device has become something of an industry standard in motion picture and television production offices.  It does actually produce some content, with its camera and user interface.  For those who don't require a dedicated workstation, it does the job handling communications, documents and on-line transactions, and may well replace the laptop in the near future.

  22. Ms. Daisy
    June 29, 2011

    The verdict from the post then is the PC stays and the tablet is mobile and here to stay, but they are not one and the same.

  23. t.alex
    July 1, 2011

    Yes, lots and lots of people whose jobs do not require heavy duty computing laptop will surely need just a tablet.

  24. itguyphil
    July 3, 2011

    This is true. I think tablets are more for those that are on the move and do not want the added burden that a laptop comes along with.

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