Mobile handsets already outnumber PCs across the globe. However, in terms of internet access (including apps) PCs could fall into third place after smartphones and tablets. That would represent a radical change from today, where PCs still represent the most common way that consumers in most developed countries access the internet.
Hardware monitor NPD Group is predicting that this year tablet shipments globablly will exceed notebooks (laptops). Here's the projection:
NPD also takes a stab at forecasting penetration of tablets by screen size. However this is somewhat less important than the fact of tablet adoption.
Rather than the cornucopia of screens displayed in the graphic above, we're likely to see standardization around three primary tablet screen sizes:
The general publisher response to the rise of tablets is probably going to be responsive web design, which has limitations. However tablets will further reinforce app usage among consumers, though surveys and behavioral studies show more mobile web usage on tablets vs. smartphones.
Tablet adoption also ends the reign of Microsoft as the most important company in the PC universe. Windows 8 and Surface adoption to date has been quite tepid. And the inevitable availability of Office for tablets removes yet another incentive to buy a PC.
The "big takeaway" here is the simple fact of more tablets than new PCs. PCs will remain prominent in the workplace and among business users. However for consumers they will see less and less "face time." Tablets and smartphones will become primary internet access points in the home, with PCs being used for more limited and specific things.