In a relatively short space of time, the tablet computer has revolutionised the consumer and enterprise technology markets. The PC may have been king of the IT industry for many years, but there is without doubt a new pretender to the throne. As more people switch off their desktop computers and laptops in favour of a sleek, portable tablet, the entire technology landscape is shifting.
PC shipments are expected to fall again this year, with Gartner predicting an 11.2 per cent decline on last year's volumes to 303 million units. At the same time, the tablet market is projected to grow by 53.4 per cent. Gartner expects 184 million units to be shipped in 2013, around 60 per cent as many as PCs. But while the personal computer market is no longer growing, tablet shipments are rising year by year.
Tablet use continuing to grow
Back in 2012 - the year Microsoft's original Surface tablet launched - 120 million tablets were shipped, according to Gartner. And the analyst expects the number to rise from 2013's projection of 184 million to 263 million in 2014. An improving global economy, aligned with the increasing affordability of such devices, will help support market growth, it believes.
Gartner says end-users are focusing their attention on smaller models, with 47 per cent of customers surveyed claiming to own a tablet with a screen size of eight inches or smaller. Users want tablets that are lightweight and easy to carry around - providing of course they offer fast browsing and great functionality on the move.
Windows sales 'to rise in 2014'
Another trend predicted by Gartner is growth in the number of Windows device sales - across PCs, tablets and smartphones. The analyst believes the end of Windows XP support in 2014 will have little or no impact on Microsoft user levels, since 90 per cent of large enterprises have either migrated or are in the process of migrating to Windows 7 or Windows 8.
In 2012, the number of Windows device shipments was recorded as 346 million by Gartner, a figure expected to fall to 332 million in 2013. This is due to contraction in the PC market, the analyst says. But with Microsoft making waves in the mobile technology arena - with Surface 2 and Pro 2 arriving at market - the number of Windows device shipments is expected to rise to 364 million in 2014.
Surface Pro 2 offers new tablet features
The Surface Pro 2 tablet offers a number of advances for business users, including faster processors, higher-resolution screens and cameras. Writing for Tech Radar Pro, Kane Fulton said the tablet - which again is designed to offer the functionality of a laptop - offers a number of "practical improvements".
"One of the main plus points of the Surface Pro 2 over the Surface 2 is that it can simply do more thanks to increased battery life, RAM, storage and improved graphics," he stated. "The Surface Pro 2's display may not have received an upgrade, but then it didn't need one." Mr Fulton said the tablet itself is "easier to use" thanks to improved keyboard covers, adding that the Wacom pen is "once again excellent".
"The traditional lines between device form factors are increasingly blurred, and those seeking a fresh form factor that offers real productivity gains will find lots to love with the Surface Pro 2," he stated. "Its value increases further still if you think of Microsoft's Windows Store as a growing ecosystem that will offer an increasing number of quality apps over time," he added.
The tablet market is set to continue on its growth trajectory as new devices enter the market, offering high-powered mobile computing at a lower price point. Surface Pro 2 has arrived at a time when the sector is growing rapidly, at the expense of traditional PCs. This trend can only be expected to continue as more people recognise the benefits of mobile connectivity, and manufacturers respond to growing demand by introducing additional device features and functionality.
Find out more about Microsoft's range of mobility solutions - including Surface Pro 2 - by clicking here.
Posted by Alex Boardman