“Post PC era” is a phrase that’s really only come in to existence in the past couple of years. At the dawn of the smartphone age we dreamed about what our handsets could do for us in a few years time.

Thanks to Apple and Google, and through app stores, the options are seemingly endless. And yet, it’s never really been likely that a phone could replace a laptop.

Then Apple released the iPad. Although it wasn’t the first tablet computing device, it was certainly the first to be available to the masses, thanks to its modest pricing. Many claim that Apple invented a whole new market. Others  stated it was just a giant iPhone/iPod touch. Both were correct, but both equally wrong.

Instead of creating a new market, what I believe occurred was the evolution of the computer market. The mobile phone evolved from one with lots of buttons and keys, to one without. The same is happening in the computer industry. It’s not created something new, it’s just leaped to the next step.

Having cannibalized the netbook market, it won’t be long before the notebook market is suffering. Each time the ARM processor advances, the possibilities for later generation iPads increase. The chips used in the iPad are low cost, consume less energy from batteries and have potential to be incredibly powerful.

I recently took up the challenge of using my iPad for an entire week as my main computer. Surprisingly, I got through 4 days with relative ease, before my old, first generation iPad needing restoring. The iPad 3 will be out in the next few months, and that will be more powerful, faster and capable of more than either of its predecessors.

Its touch screen interaction is much more intuitive than a clunky laptop with mechanical keys. It’s more portable, and is much more fun to use. For the regular consumer, it does almost anything you could need. So, why pay money for a laptop?

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think the laptop market will die completely. Some extreme users can never replace it with a small tablet, especially those who crave 15-17 inch displays.

MacBook Pros will always sell to mobile movie editors, and media folk. But, in general, the tablet market will take over the notebook and leave the laptop as the third choice behind Desktops and iPads/Android alternatives.

Even now, they’re being used in hospitals and airplanes (by pilots and for passenger entertainment), in ways that could not be achieved by a laptop. At home you can browse the web, play an endless number of games, edit documents, photos, watch video, print etc. There’s really not a lot it can’t do.

Think ahead 5 years when flash based storage is the norm, and ARM chips are standard. It’s going to be much more common place. And instead of folk asking why they need an iPad it’ll be “why do I need a laptop?”

iPads/tablets are the future of mobile computing. Do you agree? What do you think hinders this from becoming a possibility?

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