After reading the comments I have to agree with the general tone. The PC is still a player for major work while the tablets will continue to increase in sales both due to lowered costs and improved performance. I see a place for both, I do all my work (and play) on a traditional laptop. I like the portability and reasonable cost, I do use an external display for viewing multiple documents/windows. I can't imagine giving up my laptop for a tablet, but I could se in the future getting a tablet to augment my computing/email needs.
I still use Microsoft at home and work (except we use Linux for developing embedded apps), but I've been sorely tempted to do what you have done, and more than once.
However, does anyone run Linux on their tablet?
To me, "PC" is by no means synonymous with "MS Windows."
And people will rent Microsoft apps and OSs until they discover that they don't need them. That face-palm moment came to me a couple years ago, and now I run Linux at home on my laptop, & at work. What a relief!
And also the simple fact that tablets are often purchased IN ADDITION TO a desktop or laptop PC; not INSTEAD OF. Desktops do not get lost, stolen, dropped in water or otherwise damaged like portable devices such as tablets do. Doesn't take a genius to see that this will cause more units of one to be purchased than the other.
I've so far resisted buying a tablet (and by that I mean something like an iPad). I work with a PC which does the big grunt jobs (it has lots of memory) and a Macbook pro which boots fast on its SSD and is used on business trips. So what would I use a tablet for? I'm still not sure.
Seems to me that PCs met the demands of home users in the past because there was no other choice that could do what they wanted to do, which were the things Pica pointed out above. I know many people who just need to check email, Facebook etc. and tablets are just right for them, they don't want the complexity of a PC.
That doesn't mean PCs will go away, they will just end up being used by the people who need more than a tablet. Touch screens are great for simple apps, but for CAD and EDA they make little sense.
Perhaps this debate is the same as the one about battery-powered electric cars. Even if "most of the time" people use cars for distances that may be within battery range, "most of the time" doesn't cover all cases or all (unexpected?) contingencies. Unless battery technology goes through a step increase in energy storage, people will continue to need a gasoline or diesel powered car.
You don't have to be a "power user" to do basic things, like homework assignments, lab reports, banking online, catalog comparisons of that difficult-to-match china you're searching for, etc. etc.
As of today, I would say that tablets are mainly used as a replacement for printed books, printed newspapers, and for the sort of lighweight web searches and texting people would otherwise do on a smartphone. I continue to be think that people get so enthused by these leisure activities that they forget how much they still depend on PCs. Not too different from owners of battery electric cars.
Depends on the tablet, Frank, and on whether it is dockable.
I don't know how other people work, school or actual work, but I've typically got several things open on the PC, and several on the physical desk. And my constant problem is, shortage of display real-estate.
I can't begin to imagine working up a presentation, or a document, or even moving around funds in the bank, when I have half of a tiny screen taken up by a virtual keyboard. How do I jump between documents and betweeen web sites I might be searching? One small item at a time? Like in the DOS days?
A tablet connected to a docking station could certainly do this. And then it would indeed qualify as a PC. The Kindle Fire, for instance, is leagues away from achieving this. So is the iPad.
I agree Surface Pro is essentially a laptop replacement. And that is why it won't succeed - it is going to remain a small minority compared with the millions of tablets which are far smaller, lighter, cheaper and offer much longer battery life. Although I'm not an Apple fan, I recently tried out my sister's iPad on holiday and was amazed that I could use it for a few hours of browsing and email a day for almost a week without recharging it. It's a far more portable, always on, unique experience than a laptop. It's so much better to sit on the couch with a light tablet than having to drag a heavy and hot laptop around with charger attached! I hate taking a laptop when travelling so this was a totally new experience. If you haven't tried one, you just don't know...
Most PCs are used for leisure activities, and I expect many to convert to tablets over the next decade. Families with several desktops/laptops will become pretty much extinct - if you're a power user you might just keep 1 PC for heavy work.