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back to article Tough luck, lappies: Brits favour fingersome fondleslabs, phones

Tablets have been outselling desktop and notebook PCs combined here in Blighty, and they could well be about to generate more revenue for their manufacturers too, data from GfK, a market watcher, suggests. Slates have accounted for more than half of the sales volume of computer products in the UK since October 2012, GfK’s …

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IF notebook sales do stay ahead of tablets

"If notebooks sales do stay ahead of tablets, it may well be because of Windows 8 and its emphasis on touchscreen technology"

No, it WILL be "because of Windows 8 and its emphasis on touchscreen technology".

The average consumer has one choice when buying a notebook - it's Windows or Mac. Microsoft won't allow retailers to sell W7 laptops so that means the "choice" is Mac or W8.

Sure you can buy a Chromebook or a Dellbuntu, but the average consumer isn't going to buy (or at least keep) one of those.

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Re: IF notebook sales do stay ahead of tablets???

There is a simple explanation for this. The notebook, now marketed as an Ultrabook, is poor value. The consumer, the public and businesses are getting wise to this. Except for size, the new style laptops are not able to do anything more than those bought three years ago.

Also, touch screen notebooks/Ultrabooks/laptops are not as practical as they seem. Ergonomically they are awkward to use.

Couple this with the alieness of Win8 compared to its predecessors there is very little surprise in the facts and figures.

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Meh

Re: IF notebook sales do stay ahead of tablets???

I'll agree that most people have no need to update their laptops at the moment, and so there is no advantage to upgrading except a new OS, and really, outside of OS geeks who cares? And the geeks will just install the OS on existing computers - so no new sales from there.

But as to a touch screen laptop being ergonomically difficult... I disagree - when I switch from using my Asus Transformer to my laptop I find myself forgetting and poking the screen quite often as it's easier than reaching for a mouse. And actually my best experience is the Transformer, with a mouse. The mouse is great for the more detailed parts and the touch screen for buttons etc. Either one without the other is ergonomically difficult, but combined it's a really nice experience.

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Re: IF notebook sales do stay ahead of tablets??? - @LarsG

Don't be silly, the Ultrabook isn't replacing existing notebook categories, it's adding a new one for people that want portability over ports. You can still go out and buy anything from your entry level laptop to a gaming machine.

The problem that Microsoft have is that you get to chose any two from cheap, portable and fast. Sticking with the x86 architecture limits the possibilities on cheap and portable.

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Re: IF notebook sales do stay ahead of tablets???

>No, it WILL be "because of Windows 8 and its emphasis on touchscreen technology".

Or it might be that people already have notebooks. Mine is still working, and won't be replaced until it dies since it handles all I throw at it happily enough.

(I was about to whinge and say I won't know where to find another 17" 1920x1200 screened laptop... but sod it, it rarely moves off my desk so a separate 16:10 monitor will do fine)

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Re: IF notebook sales do stay ahead of tablets??? - @LarsG

>Sticking with the x86 architecture limits the possibilities on cheap and portable.

And going ARM limits the legacy Windows software you can use... so you might as well go Android.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: IF notebook sales do stay ahead of tablets??? - @LarsG

x86 v ARM architecture has little effect on possibilities. True, Intel and AMD don't offer many low power low performance low cost SoC options at the moment but that situation is changing.

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Re: IF notebook sales do stay ahead of tablets??? - @LarsG

ARM has the advantage of being both very cheap and highly integrated. You can either find off-the-shelf parts from many manufacturers that contain most if not all of the support chips needed for your application in one package. You can even get custom parts fabbed which precisely meet your needs. These parts sell for less than $25, which isn't a space that Intel or AMD want to be in.

Intel have superior process tech they can throw at the problem of power and size, but they have shown no sign of wanting to get into the market of mass customisation, certainly not at the kind of prices that ARM chips sell for. The result is that they are ceeding the low end market to ARM/Android, and that will push up-market over time (just like the PC/x86 pushed into the markets owned by Mini Computers and Workstations, not because they were better, but because they were cheaper and the R&D was amortised over a wider base).

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Re: IF notebook sales do stay ahead of tablets???

"But as to a touch screen laptop being ergonomically difficult... I disagree"

Yeah, some types find touchscreens very usefull. http://www.kevinandkell.com/2013/kk0405.html

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Laptops and tablets

It was always strange seeing teenagers and golden oldies and housewives and other consumers using massive 15" laptops or even netbooks. It was such a contrived way of achieving their aim: which was to communicate, view photos and cat videos, "consume content". Now there are products for this that are less contrived and easier to carry around, and so consumers are opting for them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Laptops and tablets

Most consumer use of notebooks use portability just for convenience around the house, not to lug around like many of us here plus students etc. need to.

What I find stranger and more commonplace nowadays is seeing golden oldies trying and failing to read their undersized iPhone screens in public. Hardly surprising the handy sized 7"/8" tablets are getting popular for use out and about or for casual use in the home even in this demographic, all that's missing for most people is seamless tethering to phone when out and about.

None of which takes away from the benefits of larger screens at home whether TV or notebook.

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Re: Laptops and tablets

>What I find stranger and more commonplace nowadays is seeing golden oldies trying and failing to read their undersized iPhone screens in public

Yeah, I've made the point a few times that those with poorer eyesight don't always get on well with 'smartphones', and would be better off with a 'dumbphone' for making calls plus a tablet for mobile email and web-browsing etc. One old boy in the pub has recently got a 4.3" touchscreen phone instead of his old 'clamshell' phone, and he doesn't get on too well with it... he did want a device that he could use to email his grandchildren when his conventional laptop 'was playing silly buggers', but I can't help but feel a bigger-screened tablet would have been a better back-up device for him. Since he comes in the pub on a daily basis, myself or one of the bar-staff would always be available to get a tablet connected to the Wi-Fi...

The more mobile a device, the easier it is to get free-tech support. : D

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During the meanwhile ...

I run my businesses with a nearly decade old HP Pavillion laptop+docking station. The wife has an identical unit, which she uses to run her businesses. We have four or five other laptops, all the same build number (spares, just in case).

My idiot neighbor spends three or four times more than my initial purchase price every couple months, trying to keep his family in the newest iFad/Fandroid kit.

My kit serves a purpose & allows me to turn a profit. His kit ... not so much.

Daft thing is, he's always griping about the expense ... all the time wondering how I can make my "obsolete hardware" do the exact same things that he's doing with his cutting-edge hardware.

The mind absolutely boggles at the daftness of TheGreatUnwashed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: During the meanwhile ...

If your 10 year old museum pieces do your job fair enough. For you. Most consumers use more graphic or memory intensive applications including web browsers, iPlayer etc. where a modern notebook works far better. When you could drop by PC world and buy a ten times better laptop for under £400, where you shout idiot neighbour, he is probably talking about his skinflint neighbour.

Sure if he is upgrading to new notebooks every 2 years that's a bit daft.

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@AC0913 (was: Re: During the meanwhile ...)

"Most consumers"

I see your problem. You actually mean "advert-driven mindless automatons" :-)

My old kit does EXACTLY the same things he needs his new kit to do, and at the same "seat of the pants" speed. I see no need to spend more money to remain static in capability, just to appear to be "up to date & modern" to clueless onlookers. Your mileage may vary.

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Re: @AC0913 (was: During the meanwhile ...)

Other than the dangers of running a company using geriatric hardware (what will it cost you if it fails and isn't available for any period of time, and is the data safely backed up?), the GPU capabilities of such a machine are next to nonexistent. Most home users these days expect things like full-screen h264 video playback to work smoothly. A little light game playing is also not unexpected.

A modern tablet has about the same CPU power as your ancient box, and a much better GPU. They will have a lifespan equal to a laptop (wait 10 years and you will probably be able to find one for silly money) and costs the same or less than a laptop (mostly less). Somebody had to buy that laptop of yours new (probably for a not inconsiderable sum at the time). Where they stupid for doing so?

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Re: During the meanwhile ...

I'm just trying to reconcile the sentiments "Your mileage may vary." with "The mind absolutely boggles at the daftness of TheGreatUnwashed."

If I want a device that acts like a typewriter, I use a laptop. If I want a device that acts like a picture frame or MIDI control surface, I use a tablet... just as if I want to bash something I use a mallet, and if I want to carve something I use a knife, router, chisel or lathe.

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Re: @AC0913 (was: During the meanwhile ...)

If he is doing EXACTLY the same as you, he like you isn't into multitouch, games, video, web browsing etc. You mentioned his family using the latest tech etc. Something does not compute. Not just talking about your old kit.

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Re: @AC0913 (was: During the meanwhile ...)

"They will have a lifespan equal to a laptop" - will they really?

It appears almost universally, that tablets have been built without easy servicing of the battery - and there are none that I know of that will last ten years. Aren't these destined to end up in the drawer with the mobile phones that work perfectly but you can no longer get a battery for. I've got three of those, big-name brands too. Early adopters of single core CPU tablets are likely to have traded up to quad core tablets and not faced up to the replacement battery problem yet. I've been there, with a 7" tablet that developed a fault and although maybe the best device for the BBC News app, TAPTU, and some games, I took the refund rather than get a replacement - on consideration about the battery.

A dual-core ARM-CPU, MALI-GPU tablet with a 720p display would serve me, for all that it seems likely that I would require over the next ten years. (BBC iPlayer HD out at 1920p through the HDMI connector). Quad-core ARM with octo-core MALI tablets and retina displays might be sufficient for the next ten years of portable gaming too, and are available now at upwards of £150. But the battery will last three years at best, and there is no easy solution, because if you could actually buy a replacement battery now, you would need to store it in a deep freeze to stop it deteriorating, but I doubt stockists do that. Kit more than three years old, and it seems that it is not economic for new batches of replacement batteries to be made and stocked - I've got a laptop with that problem, one of the intelligent charging enabled ones that dropped below the threshold, and then wouldn't recharge.

Smartphones with replaceable batteries used to be the norm (apart from Apple) but the new bigger screen sizes are made as sealed units, with no easy battery replacement.

My solution for the moment is that I have a MK808 plugged into one of the HDMI ports on my TV - which gives me everything Android without the battery problems. I don't intend to replace my smartphone (rooted ZTE -Blade 800x480 OLED) that has a replaceable battery, or my small portable computer (HP-dm1 with 8GB RAM and the same battery in newer models) any time soon.

Isn't the sales problem with notebooks that once they started being made with low-power dual core CPUs, and more recently even lower power SoCs with integrated GPUs, they did everything that was required of them, fast enough. Standard 1366x768 screen resolution is now outdated if lots of video or IPTV is watched on a notebook when 1920x1080 would be better. Likewise I've got a quad-core desktop that doesn't need replacing until the MB fails, although I did put Windows-8 onto it at the £25 upgrade.

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Re: @AC0913 (was: During the meanwhile ...)

Firstly how many laptops do you think get serviced, and which parts do you think fail? Mostly it is the mechanical bits (disks, CD drives etc). If the motherboard goes then most cheaper devices go in the bin.

Tablets remove these parts, and replace them with solid state bits that are less likely to fail. Batteries will need replacing, but are well within the realms of repair shops (or even competent amateurs) to do.

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Re: @AC0913 (was: During the meanwhile ...)

"Other than the dangers of running a company using geriatric hardware"

Under ten years old is "geriatric" for critical kit? Seriously? The wax seal under your bog is probably over thirty years old, are you planning on replacing it any time soon? When was the last time you replaced your soil-stack? The pipe that supplies freshwater to your house? Your upstairs plumbing? When stuff is built right the first time, for the job at hand, with properly selected parts, there is little need to replace it, until things really go pear-shaped.

"(what will it cost you if it fails and isn't available for any period of time, and is the data safely backed up?)"

Downtime will be in the minutes. It'll cost me precisely nothing, as I have spare hardware if needs-be (see above), which was written off years ago. I'll repair it myself. And yes, the data is safely backed up.

"the GPU capabilities of such a machine are next to nonexistent. Most home users these days expect things like full-screen h264 video playback to work smoothly. A little light game playing is also not unexpected."

Our machines aren't toys, they are the tools we use to run our businesses.

"A modern tablet has about the same CPU power as your ancient box, and a much better GPU."

So, essentially, you agree with me?

"They will have a lifespan equal to a laptop"

Post proof or retract. Near as I can tell, all fondle-slabs get circle-canned as soon as the next "oh, look, shiny" appears on the market. Some folks hold out for two iterations but not many.

"Somebody had to buy that laptop of yours new"

That would be me & the wife. And that would be "those" laptops. I believe in spares when making a long-term, intelligently planned decision on a major business tool.

"(probably for a not inconsiderable sum at the time)."

Wasn't all that bad. Intel had rolled a new line of processors out a couple months before Christmas. I bought a pallet-load of top-of-the-line, last built "last year's model", properly debugged in production & by the general public, at fire-sale prices, new, in their original boxes, with full warranty, from a big chain for roughly fifteen cents on the dollar the following February.

"Where they stupid for doing so?"

I don't think we were, no. But thanks for asking :-)

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@Dave 126 (was: Re: During the meanwhile ...)

"I'm just trying to reconcile the sentiments "Your mileage may vary." with "The mind absolutely boggles at the daftness of TheGreatUnwashed.""

In the first example, I was replying to a particular ElReg forum poster (AC that s/he might be, it was still an individual making a valid point). In the second example, I was reporting a case that I, personally, have been observing for several years (my idiot neighbor). Note that the two examples are chronologically backwards as presented by yourself.

"If I want a device that acts like a typewriter, I use a laptop."

I use the Smith Corona that I banged out my first Masters degree on.

"If I want a device that acts like a picture frame or MIDI control surface, I use a tablet...

I use a picture frame. And just say no to MIDI.

"just as if I want to bash something I use a mallet,"

When I want to bash something, I fire up a shell prompt. Mallets are precision tools.

"and if I want to carve something I use a knife, router, chisel or lathe."

Agree on the above, but what about skates, skis or boards?

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@AC10:39 (was: Re: @AC0913 (was: During the meanwhile ...))

"If he is doing EXACTLY the same as you"

Close.

"he like you isn't into multitouch"

Actually, he hates it. I'm trying to find an actual use for it. Burning CPU cycles for glitter is an anathema as far as I'm concerned.

"games, video"

None of his family are gamers, and most don't care about video on tiny screens (why does anyone enjoy video on tiny screens, by the way? ... this whole concept boggles my mind!).

"web browsing etc."

C'mon ... I was doing web browsing soon after Gopher was invented. On a text-only terminal. It worked quite nicely. I still use Lynx as a web browser ~90% of the time. Why? Because, when you think about it, 99.99+ percent of the actual useful information on the WWW could be served up as plain old ASCII text.

"You mentioned his family using the latest tech etc. Something does not compute. Not just talking about your old kit."

They are trying to use the new hardware the same way they used the hardware they had 6 or 8 years ago. For them it seems to work, but is frustrating. I've suggesting to going back to a less frustrating solution, and/or "taking a class", but it seems they know it all already and aren't interested. Newer kit, "cool, shiny, my friends will be so impressed" seems to be more important. ::shrugs::

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Re: @AC0913 (was: During the meanwhile ...)

"Firstly how many laptops do you think get serviced"

All of mine do. By me.

"and which parts do you think fail? Mostly it is the mechanical bits (disks, CD drives etc)."

Battery packs are first to fail. Followed by keybr0ads (unless you know how to take 'em apart & clean 'em). Then cooling fans & attendant ducting get clogged (unless you know how to take 'em apart & clean 'em). THEN the spinning stuff starts failing, mostly because of overheating ...

"If the motherboard goes then most cheaper devices go in the bin."

Agree. Unless you bought spares ten years ago, for this very event ;-)

"Tablets remove these parts, and replace them with solid state bits that are less likely to fail."

But when (not if!) they do, you own a brick, no?

"Batteries will need replacing, but are well within the realms of repair shops (or even competent amateurs) to do."

But why do they make it so difficult? And why is it that my ancient, daily used as my primary telephone, Nokia 5185's battery still seems to work as well as it did on the day that I first used it eleven years ago? Absolutely NONE of this newer stuff will still work, in "as shipped by the factory" condition, four years after purchase. Sad that consumers accept throw-away technology. Well done, marketards.

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Re: @AC0913 (was: During the meanwhile ...)

@Jake, though you've explained why YOU personally can use old laptop kit for the uses that you have in mind, you've failed completely to reconcile their capabilities with what your neighbour would want and why he's an idiot for not doing likewise.

Tablets have no keyboard to fail, no fans, no ducts to clog, nothing which will overheat. They're designed to run inside of a power budget of 3 or 4 watts. The battery is internal, but replaceable (and to the poster above, yes third parties will still be making new replacements well into the future). It's this low power plus lack of parts that are prone to fail that mean that they will at least match laptops for lifespan (most everything else is similar or the same as laptop technology).

The old cellphone battery has lasted this long because it's based on NiMh battery technology. They store less charge and weigh more for a given size cell. Laptops moved to Lithium cells due to their higher capacity and lower weight. The trade-off is a shorter life span. Life is a set of trade-offs, live with it.

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@Steve Todd (was: Re: @AC0913 (was: During the meanwhile ...))

1) I'm "jake", not "Jake". Jake is a completely separate commentard.

2) My neighbor's an idiot because he continues to spend money on hardware ... only to do nothing that he couldn't do with his old hardware.

3) I seriously doubt that any of the existing iFads/Fandroids will still be in operation ten years from now, much less doing useful business (know anyone still using a 5 year old CrackBerry?). On the other hand, I might get another ten years out of this old laptop.

4) So my battery longevity, and therefore lifespan of my business tool, is somehow a bad thing in your mind? How do you come to that conclusion?

5) You say that modern fondleslabs will have a lifespan "at least" (your words!) as long as my old laptops, yet you have no proof that consumers will actually upgrade simple stuff like batteries, rather than purchase the "oh, new, shiny"?

Are you in marketing? Or have you simply drunk the koolaide?

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I think we're seeing a distillation of the market

Into those who are mostly information consumers, who only really need a tablet, and those who both consume and also produce a lot of information. Laptops aren't going to go away, but they will get more expensive, under the guise of the current low cost options becoming increasingly scarce (i.e. going the way the NetBook is going).

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