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In its latest report, Forrester Research predicts that tablets are on their way to becoming the primary personal computing device. Users will continue to embrace tablets and the core tool to pivot among computing environments. Forrester’s new report explores the impact of tablets on the technology market and how technology leaders can prepare their teams for the shift tablets will cause in enterprise computing.

The Expanding Tablet Market

According to “Tablets Will Rule the Future Personal Computing Landscape,” consumers purchased 56 million tablets globally in 2011. However, analysts expect that number to grow to 375 million tablets by 2016, resulting in 760 million tablets in use. The report also predicts that frames, a new stationary PC-like device that can be used to dock tablets and expand their features, will further aid the expansion of the tablet market. Although consumers will still own fewer tablets than the projected 2 billion PCs that will be in use by 2016, tablets will become the personal computing device of choice.

The tablet market is in the process of diversifying, but currently 9% of adults in the US own an iPad. Apple has sold 60 million tablets since it launched the iPad two years ago. Although several competitors such as Microsoft, Google, Research in Motion and, briefly, Hewlett-Packard have entered the market, they have not managed to gain a significant share of the market. Forrester predicts Apple will remain in a leadership position, especially in the premium device sector, but its overall market share will slowly begin to erode.

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Tablets won’t just affect the consumer market; the report suggests that consumerization trend will continue to expand and make personal technology inside the enterprise the norm. In fact, Forrester expects mobile devices to surpass PCs and eventually become the primary device used in the workplace.

The trend is already beginning. Forrester found that in 2011, 36% of companies supported tablets, and 44% of businesses planned to increase spending on tablets in the upcoming year. This continued business investment in tablets is expected to expand the enterprise market to one-third of all tablet sales and drive vendors to implement more enterprise features in their formerly consumer-centric offerings.

Despite Forrester’s dramatic predictions, the report shouldn’t be sensationalized as foretelling the death of the PC or the domination of Apple over competitors. The popularity of tablets will continue to grow, an impact the sales of alternative products. However, PCs, laptops and smart phones will still have a role. Tablets, like all emerging technologies, are just establishing their role among the many alternatives consumers have for personal computing.

Preparing for the Tablet-Driven Future

Because of the rising popularity of tablets and their continued entry in the workplace, Forrester suggests that technology leaders should take the time and effort to understand and plan for the impact to their organizations. The report makes several recommendations:

  • Consider how tablets and related technologies affect the scenarios and user experiences their applications support and identify new opportunities to take advantage of tablet-specific capabilities.
  • Plan for an increase in input styles and types. Tablets will contribute to growing data sizes and input diversity. Vendors will begin offering new input options (e.g. Kinect controller).
  • Determine how to streamline the process of connecting personal and work technology without compromising security.

Forrester’s report is just another confirmation that tablets are transforming our computing experience. As adoption grows and the technology continues to evolve, our interaction with tablets will likely be even more prolific than it is today.