One of my friends has argued that tablets will one day replace desktop (and laptop) computing. His main argument is that there's a trend away from desktop computing to tablet computing and that sales for tablets are growing and soon surpassing desktop computers.

I disagree, and tend to think the desktop/laptop computer will be around for a long time because of the ergonomic infeasibility of using a tablet for more then a few hours at a time, let alone a full work week. Furthermore the smaller screen size resulting in less productivity, and the weakness of a virtual keyboard compared to a physical one.

Is there research to support one view over the other?

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    Your friend's argument appears to be "a current trend in usage away from A to B means that one day there will be no more users of A" - this is not sound. – AakashM Feb 8 '13 at 16:20
  • Not really a UX question – DA01 Feb 8 '13 at 17:14
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    Off-topic: this isn't really a "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face". – msanford Feb 8 '13 at 17:17
  • Relevant: scientificamerican.com/article/… – n00b May 7 '14 at 18:24

Tablet computing and desktop computing are fundamentally different experiences. They are better at very different things, and offer greatly different experiences. I include laptops into the desktop category here.

I could never do my day to day work in a tablet, but then again, I prefer using a tablet for other things such as browsing videos, or reading a textbook. Developers, designers, accountants, etc. can not work nearly as efficiently on a tablet as they can on a desktop, and so they will continue using desktops for the foreseeable future.

What may be causing the perception that this will happen, is that many people use a desktop for something which is better done on a tablet. For those people a tablets will eventually replace desktop computing. But not for many other people.

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  • The Surface would appear to (at least be attempting to) blur blur the 'fundamental differences' into one device. – DA01 Feb 8 '13 at 17:16

I think, desktop computers will be in use for professional work, like creating digital content/software a long time.

But on the consumer side, the tablets will probably get some users away from desktops AND some users, who didn't want to use desktops in the first place, to computers the first time. Tablets allow a deeper integration into everyday life, you can use them without changing much of what you did before.

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Desktop computing has shrunk quite a bit...kind of like LPs for music. They'll always be around, but are no longer the norm.

As for laptops, well, define laptop vs. tablet. For the most part, they are merely merging. The Surface being a popular example of that. People like touch screens, but they also still like keyboards, and likely will for decades to come.

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