According to the latest market study by IDC, the advancement of mainstream personal computer usage no longer starts and ends with the traditional PC device.
Since the first smartphone was introduced in 2000, and the introduction of the media tablet a decade later, we have witnessed many mobile device form factors and significant new innovations in hardware and software.
These form factors are now extensions of personal computing. They are an apparent gateway to the future possibilities -- they are also a clear departure from the past.
IDC believes that complacency and a lack of creativity in the legacy PC ecosystem has occurred during the past five years. As a result, PC market growth flattened in 2012 and will likely stagnate in 2013 -- as users continue gravitating towards ever more powerful smartphones and tablets.
This year, over 2 billion users will access the Internet. What makes this compelling is not the number of users going online, but rather the number of devices that will be used to gain access to the Global Networked Economy.
Over half of these users will access the Internet with mobile devices, which means that system OEMs and semiconductor suppliers need to emphasize technology that offers better performance, optimizes power for all day mobility, and drives integration and cost savings by leveraging heterogeneous SoC-based solutions across every form factor.
The introduction of a new category of Ultrabooks comes at an important time for the PC industry, which is at a crossroad as established vendors struggle to reinvent their business models and remain relevant in the evolution of personal computing.
IDC expects that this year the industry will see an acceleration in investment and innovation in technology, design, materials science, and software platforms that cut across personal computing form factors.
This is the re-invigoration that the PC market needs to change course, and initiatives like the Ultrabook category are just the first step in the PC industry's new path.
"The growth of the industry is very clear; the key challenge will not be what form factor to support or what app to enable, but how will the computing industry come together to truly define the market's transformation around a transparent computing experience. In the end, consumers will demand the same level of simplicity and convenience on any device and for any service," said Mario Morales, program vice president at IDC.
In contrast, I believe that savvy consumer electronics manufacturers will not stake their future prosperity on the eventual success of the Ultrabook form factor. Rather, they will continue to experiment with new mobile device designs that are tightly coupled with cloud-based applications.
The low-cost cloudbook is one example of a forward-thinking form factor that will gain momentum and increased adoption during 2013. Be on the lookout for more vendor announcements of new design variations of the Google Chromebook device.
Also, don't be surprised if and when some vendors attempt to emulate the success of the Chrome ecosystem -- but fail miserably. I'll share more thoughts and observations about the evolution of personal computing and cloud applications in the coming weeks and months.