The tablet market is led by Apple's iPad with the Amazon Kindle Fire… (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)
A paradigm shift may be coming to the digital lifestyle. Instead of the PC being the center of the personal computing universe, consumers will be opting for tablets as their primary computing device and relying on cloud storage to access their content across their devices, according to a new report.
"This burgeoning market is set to disrupt the personal computing device and OS markets," says the report from Forrester Research on the future of computing.
Instead of serving as a supplement to a desktop or laptop computer, the report said, these burgeoning cloud services will play such an integral role in the connected future that consumers will first choose a service, then the compatible device as the focus shifts from device to personal content storage services. And tablets such as iPad will become the conduit between consumers' digital devices such as smartphones and PC and the cloud-stored content.
"Over the next four years, tablets will gain new sensors, processing power, and better wireless capabilities for connecting with nearby devices," wrote Frank Gillette, principal analyst on Forrester's business technology futures team. "This will enable full voice control and dictation, increased gesture control, more situational context, better accessory integration, and software that anticipates a user’s needs."
The computing platform will also make its way more solidly into the office, the report said. Even though the same functionality is heading to the PC, the form factor and mobility of tablets give them a clear edge over PCs, the report says.
In addition to tablets, Forrester predicts that "frames," a new peripheral with a larger display, sensors and processing power, will emerge "for larger-scale applications, small group interactions, and presentations."
Apple is expected to hold its prominence in the market, even as its market share erodes to tighter competition. Google's Android, however, is expected to suffer due to a fragmented ecosystem, since Android-based tablets aren't all granted equal access to its apps, and be surpassed by rebranded Androids such asAmazon's Kindle.
And the advent of Windows 8 tablets is expected to pull some of the Android market, according to the report.
"We believe that many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will shift focus from Android devices to Windows 8 tablets but that Samsung and a variety of low-priced white label tablets will stay the course and find a role in serving primarily growth markets with budget devices," Gillette wrote.
Microsoft is building a software architecture with touch computing fully integrated. But, many have noted, the user experience is informed and enhanced by a vibrant app ecosystem, which is slowly being populated behind others with a multi-year head start. The Forrester report said it will likely take most of next year to develop it.
"Once rolling, however, we expect Microsoft will be a significant player," Gillette wrote.
Ultimately, over the next decade, PCs will be redefined, figuratively and literally, the report said. It will come to mean more about the experience than the machine.
"PC no longer will mean personal computers — instead it will be the full spectrum of personal computing, from personal cloud services to the broad range of personal technology used for work, including tablets, smartphones, and frames," Gillette wrote.
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Tablets and clouds to displace the PC, report says