We have seen the future of the PC, and it is the iPad.
Although it's been on the market for barely half a year, and although Apple's category-busting device has consistently shattered even the most wildly optimistic sales expectations, the iPad appears to be just warming up: one analyst says the company's gearing up its supply chain to sell a staggering 45 million iPads in 2011.
That's 123,287 iPads per day. Or 5,137 per hour. Or 1.43 per second.
Just a couple of weeks ago at Hewlett-Packard's analysts' day, the company that the media constantly refer to as "the world's leading PC manufacturer" said its vaunted global supply chain and powerful PC brand enable it to sell 2 PCs every second, and that's a terrific achievement.
But if the projections for Apple to sell 45 million iPads next year are even close to accurate, that means a product barely one year old will itself become a significant challenger to the massive PC business that HP says undergirds the entire purchasing and sourcing strategy for the entire $130 billion company.
Are we hitting one of those axis-shaking inflection points in the PC business? Are we approaching the point where people will soon look at laptop computers as little better than the 25-pound luggables of the early 1980s?
Meanwhile, another IT titan deeply enmeshed in the mobile revolution but with very different results might have to look far outside its own walls if it expects to remain viable in the enterprise-mobility market.
Mighty Microsoft finds itself now hopelessly behind in the smartphone business, where BlackBerry's huge installed base is impressive and lucrative but also under very serious attack from Apple's iPhone and Google's Android.
And Microsoft's only hope for salvation, says one analyst, is to acquire BlackBerry maker RIM.
From a post on seekingalpha.com by Mark Riddix called Why Microsoft Should Buy Research In Motion:
"RIM's enterprise value is just $23.5 billion dollars," Riddix writes. "This is half of the $47-billion dollar market cap that RIM had in 2007 when Microsoft was rumored to be interested in the Blackberry maker. The company would obviously have to pay a substantial premium to shareholders to acquire Research in Motion but it's worth it. Mobile customers represent the future of technology. Microsoft could either spend billions of dollars competing against RIM or use their cash hoard to acquire RIM."
It's an intriguing idea and one that might give Microsoft the enlightened and highly motivated self-interest to get serious about this intensely important market, one that Microsoft has until now regarded as just one of the many important-but-not-too-important initiatives it should pursue.
Contrast Microsoft's approach—everything from data-center software to the Xbox—to the maniacal focus of Apple on conceiving and creating superb and deeply personal devices that transcend our outmoded silos of consumer device versus professional device: can Microsoft, even if it acquires RIM, really expect to be able to out-innovate Apple in a market that's simply an adjunct business for Microsoft but is Apple's one and only passion?
And heck, then you've got to factor Android and Google into the equation—as we wrote in a recent blog post called Android Surging Past Blackberry And iPhone, "Just when you thought you'd picked which side to back in the smartphone wars—iPhone or BlackBerry?—along comes that darn Google Android to mess up those best-laid plans: Gartner says Android's market share this year will eclipse that of both BlackBerry and Apple."
As I've argued in some other columns about the iPad, its power lies not in its price or its form factor or its name or its very beguiling advertising. Rather, for CIOs in particular, the real magic of the iPad is in its ability to enhance the ability of employees to engage in ideas and exchanges that unlock the full value of your company and its knowledge and its ideas and its potential.
It's not like traditional PCs because, as marvelous as they are, they are in essence merely echoes of a distant past.
Whereas in a business world that's increasingly mobile, increasingly about ideas and experiences and creativity, and increasingly about collaborations and connections, the iPad is the sound and shape of things to come.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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