For the purpose of tracking PC sales from quarter to quarter and year to year, should media tablets be included or kept as a separate category?
A new report published by market research firm IC Insights Inc. postulates that PC sales will grow by 13 percent in 2011, thanks in part to strong projected growth of Apple Inc.'s iPad and other media tablets.
Among other things, the report calls to the forefront the central question of whether a tablet actually fits into the PC category or is something else entirely.
Some analysts are projecting that PC sales in 2011 will actually be undercut this year by media tablets, which they put in a separate category. Market research firm IHS iSuppli, for example, recently reported that first quarter PC sales slipped slightly compared to the first quarter of 2010, thanks in part to rising interest in media tablets.
Clearly, all comers recognize that the media tablet is a phenomenon that is making a big impact on the PC market. It's either lifting the PC market or hurting the PC market, depending on your point of view.
So, the logical question is: Is a media tablet a PC or not? A simple question, yes, but not an easy one. And if you ask 10 people, you are likely to get a five-to-five split decision.
This being 2011, it might be useful to turn to Wikipedia, the default reservoir of knowledge on all topics. Wikipedia says:
"A personal computer (PC) is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer operator. PCs include any type of computer that is used in a 'personal' manner. This is in contrast to the batch processing or time-sharing models which allowed large expensive mainframe systems to be used by many people, usually at the same time, or large data processing systems which required a full-time staff to operate efficiently."
Okay. By this definition, a tablet would appear to qualify. But so would a lot of other things that aren't mainframes (do we use mainframes anymore?). An iPod might also qualify as a PC under this definition.
Wikipedia goes on to say:
"A personal computer may be a desktop computer or other mobile types, for example a laptop, tablet PC or a handheld PC (also called a palmtop) that is smaller than a laptop."
This would also appear to support the inclusion of a tablet. But, palmtop? Was this written in 1996? Regardless of whether a tablet is ultimately considered a PC or not, it appears that someone ought to take advantage of the collaborative nature of Wikipedia and go in and update the definition of PC using language recognizable by today's reader (sorry, I'm not really the go-getter type).