There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the future of laptops. Across the board, sales have fallen for laptops and desktops, and many believe this is a sign of a future where the laptop no longer holds the importance it once did in the world of computers.
If that’s the case, then what will replace them? Tablets probably aren’t the answer, considering they’ve also taken a hit in the market in the last few years. So what, if anything will bring the end of the laptop and will it even really happen?
A Look Back
Before we look at the supposed doom and gloom of laptops, let’s take a quick look back a few years to try and understand why some experts have been predicting the end of laptops as we know it.
Do you remember when Steve Jobs took the stage to introduce the first iPad? I remember it. It wasn’t all that long ago when you think about it. At the time, a tablet was something new, even if Microsoft built one several years prior to the iPad introduction that failed to wow, well, anyone. Still, there were some even then that saw the iPad as the first device created that could one day end the dominance of the laptop.
In reality, ever since then some experts have believed that it would be tablets that one end the laptop as we know it. Of course, it’s been several years now and we are still waiting for that to happen, but are we already seeing the writing on the wall?
Laptop Sales Slip
In the last few years, laptop sales have begun to slip. Manufacturers are no longer selling as many new devices as they once did. Many have attributed this to the rise of tablet sales, and they may be right. However, laptops aren’t the only devices that have suffered in recent years. In fact, tablets have begun to suffer as well.
Admittedly, this sales slump for tablets happened after the laptop slump began, however it’s difficult to attribute all of the laptop’s losses to the tablet when they have been suffering as well.
Factors Impacting the Slump
Of course, there are other factors that are impacting both the sale of laptops and tablets. First, people are keeping their devices for longer. This is due to several reasons, including a downturn in the world economy as well as the devices just lasting longer due to slower evolution of the software that runs on them. Some people are also buying fewer devices. That means in some cases someone will buy a laptop and not a tablet, while in other cases the choice is reversed. Other consumers, don’t buy either, opting instead for a more traditional desktop computer as they machine of choice.
Still, on top of this you do have to look at the tablet market and what it has done to the laptop market as whole. No matter what, you can’t deny that it has impacted the laptop market.
Rise of Convertibles
If there is one thing that is clear, the regular tablet did little to impact the overall sales of the laptop. Sure, there were a few here and there that did opt for a tablet instead of a laptop, but overall most consumers purchased both. However, in the last couple years a new breed of tablet has risen – the convertible.
A convertible tablet, sometimes called a hybrid, is basically a tablet and a laptop all wrapped into one device. These devices are sometimes tablets with fancy keyboards and mice attached to them, but in other cases they are full Windows computers with the ability to fold into a tablet or be removed for a tablet experience. Of course, when you look at these devices, are they tablets or are they laptops?
No doubt, they can be tough to really define. Heck, I’m writing this article on what I would call a laptop that can convert into a tablet. Overall, it is more of a laptop, if you ask me, but it does have the ability to become a handy Windows 10 tablet. Still, I tend to use it in laptop mode much more than tablet mode. But maybe that’s just me. Others may choose to define these devices as tablets with laptop capabilities. Who knows. What do you think? Are these devices laptops or tablets?
Impact of the Convertible
If there is one device out there that has hurt laptop sales and tablet sales, it is the convertible. In fact, these devices are the strongest segment of the market today. When all other lines continue to shrink, these continue to grow. It seems more and more people are choosing these types of devices when they upgrade. They are doing this for several reasons.
- Mobile operating systems have matured to be more functional.
- They are looking to save money on one device.
- Windows 10 is both tablet and laptop friendly.
- Simplifying their electronics collections with only one device.
More and more people are choosing these types of devices, and it is having an affect on the tablet and laptop markets. Still, as I already said, do you consider these tablets or laptops? Currently, these devices are often counted with tablets, and with good reason. After all, one of their primary functions is being a tablet, but they are really so much more that you can’t deny that they could be considered as much laptop as they are a tablet.
Of course, in the market, they are being counted as a subcategory of tablets. As such, they do show that tablets are having an impact on laptop sales, although that isn’t entirely accurate when you look at it in more detail as we have done here.
Reality of the Category
The reality is that these devices aren’t being counted exactly as they should. The fact is, some of these devices are really more of a tablet than a laptop, and as such should be counted as a hybrid tablet. On the other hand, some of these devices are actually more laptop than tablet, such as mine, and probably should be counted as a laptop and not a tablet.
If you break it down like this, I’m betting the reality of the market would look very different. In fact, I think it would show that laptops haven’t taken quite as big of a hit as you may think. Still there is no doubt that the laptop market isn’t quite what it used to be.
Will Laptops Be Replaced?
Now that we understand a little about what has been going on in the market and a little about these devices, now we can actually talk about whether or not laptops will be replaced one day by a different device.
It’s probably obvious to all of you by now that I’m not convinced they are being replaced by tablets or anything else, at least not yet. At the same time, I do think the possibility does exist that laptops could one day be replaced. However, I do believe we have a long way to go before that happens.
Improvements in Hybrids
The first thing that must happen is tablets or other devices must improve. Your ability to work on these types of machines needs to reach the same level as a traditional laptop before these devices will really completely replace laptops. Even then, the overall use is still very similar, so are they really being replaced? Or are we just talking about an evolution of laptop design?
Other Technologies That Could Have an Impact
There are other technologies that are coming that could have a big impact in the future. One of the major drawbacks of a tablet replacing a laptop is the ability to control the device with ease over long periods of time. Today, you still can’t beat a good old fashioned keyboard and mouse.
However, technologies such as VR and voice activation could really change the way we interact with our machines. When and if that happens, then you can expect that the popularity of the laptop could decrease. But until they come up with a new way of interacting, then I believe that the laptop will continue to reign supreme for most of us, especially in the workplace.
So Are They Being Replaced?
So the question becomes, are laptops being replaced? In some ways, I think maybe, especially in consumers’ homes. Overall, however, I don’t think we have seen the last of the laptop. It will continue to evolve and change to fit the growing needs of consumers. One day, however, as technology changes, I do think we will see the end of the laptop as we know it. When that day comes, I believe we will be using new technology that will provide a much more advanced and useful interface.
The laptop may have taken a hit in recent years, but trust me, it’s here to stay. Currently there is nothing that can match the portability and usefulness of a laptop. Tablets are continuing to evolve, and hybrids give you the best of both worlds, but if you are looking for a great user interface to get real work done, a laptop is the way to go. And that will continue for many years to come.
One day we may not be using laptops, but that is far in the future. So if you are considering buying a laptop, then don’t worry. You will get many years of use out of it and you don’t have to worry about having to change to something new.
About the author
Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing for LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.