Say, iPad idolaters, don't write the laptop's epitaph just yet

May you live in interesting times. It’s an ancient curse. Or is it a blessing? There are volumes devoted to that age-old issue. In my world, though, there’s nothing gray about this topic. I get paid to answer questions, so interesting times are a blessing. Straight up. When clients don’t have any questions, now that’s a curse.

These are blessed times we live in, my friends. At least it is in my world. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been two years since Apple sold the first iPad. The year before, the tech world marveled at the vitality of the PC. Incredibly, shipments grew in 2009, defying gravity at a time when the rest of the economy seemed to be in a free-fall. My, how things have changed.

Today, many of you now are busy chiseling the epitaph onto the face of the laptop’s tombstone. Sorry, I don’t mean to spoil the ending. I know you’re still working. But from what I gather, it’s going to read something like this:

"Here lies the laptop
Sluggish, heavy, unresponsive
We’d miss you
If we didn’t all have iPads"

You might want to put the funeral plans on hold for a while, though, because the PC is about to get interesting again. The ecosystem, sparked by Intel’s Ultrabook initiative, has been hard at work trying to erase its shortcomings, which together singed a hole in the market wide enough to drive more than 100 million media tablets through.

I’m fond of saying that equilibrium for personal electronics stands at two devices, one in the pocket and one in the briefcase. When we buy a third device, it’s for picking up the slack for one or both primary devices.

If you’ve strolled down the aisle of a commercial flight during the past year, you might conclude that what the iPad brought to the computing world was Solitaire. I’m being facetious, of course, though the real answer is interrelated.

First and foremost, the tablet is tackling the laptop’s deficient battery life. It’s giving us a chance to read, watch a movie -- and yes, play Solitaire -- without siphoning any of the juice needed for productivity apps.

That’s how the tablet pushed its way alongside the laptop in our briefcases. That it’s a more recline-friendly form factor, that it boasts superior battery life, that it’s easier and quicker to engage and access is why we’re turning to it more and more.

Many of us still opt for the laptop for more creation-centric tasks. But because the tablet is more accessible, it wins out for anything that we can do equally well on either device, like researching something on the web.

So there’s a lot riding on the PC ecosystem’s response, which kicks off in earnest at the Computex trade show next week in Taiwan. It will be the coming-out party for dozens of new laptop models. They’re sleek and sexy. They’re more responsive. They boast better battery life.

Many of them are convertible clamshells that double as tablets for reading, gaming and watching video. Some have touchscreens or offer them as an option.

If you have a tablet and a laptop, these new portables probably won’t convince you to go back to one device. But if you’re deciding whether to buy your first tablet or replace your current system, I’ll bet that one of these new laptops will lure you in.

All in all, a good first step toward bringing us back to equilibrium, and a good reason to put off finishing that tombstone.

Photo Credit: metalstock/Shutterstock

Mike Feibus is principal analyst at TechKnowledge Strategies, a Scottsdale, Ariz., market research firm focusing on client technologies. You can reach him at mike at techknowledge-group dot com.

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