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Real battle is not about smartphones

By Greg Guenthner ·
Monday, June 3, 2013
Posted: 1 pm ET

Tech investors never fail to obsess over a smartphone story.

As the devices become even more ubiquitous, sales and projections from the major phone makers have taken center stage.

Will Apple maintain its popularity with its latest iteration of the popular iPhone? Will Blackberry stage a comeback with its brand new (keyboard-less) device? Will Samsung win over consumers with its huge, bright touchscreen devices? These are the questions asked hundreds of times by bloggers, reporters and analysts.

Beyond the smartphone melee, a different -- and possibly even more important -- tech battle emerges. And it's all about a device that's way too big to fit in your back pocket ...

For decades, the personal computer has been every student's and businessman's go-to device for work and play. However, as computing devices continue to get lighter, cheaper and more powerful, the tablet market is starting to eat the PC's lunch

According to a report from research firm International Data Corp. via USA Today, tablet sales will squeak by laptops by the end of this year, eventually surpassing the entire PC market by as early as 2015.

"The surging tablet market will continue to soar this year, with shipments expected to rise 58.7 percent compared with the same time last year, IDC forecast on Tuesday," USA Today reports. "Tablet shipments will reach 229.3 million worldwide, vs. 144.5 million last year."

That's some pretty incredible growth just over the horizon -- growth that will send shock waves throughout the computing industry. As more consumers and on-the-go business people move toward portable tablets, PC makers could find themselves in trouble.

Microsoft is already taking an offensive position to help combat Apple in the tablet space. According to Bloomberg, Microsoft is slashing the price of its Windows tablet software.

"Microsoft is using the changes to try and get more manufacturers to adopt Windows RT, a version of its flagship software for tablets," Bloomberg reports. "The price cuts affect Windows RT for small-sized tablets."

Even if Microsoft fails to get Windows RT off the ground, the effort proves that the future is moving away from PCs and toward the red-hot tablet market.

Android-based tablets (and of course, iPads) are the most popular, leading the market in sales. And prices are dropping, thanks to new competition.

Even traditional PC manufacturers are starting to come around.

"Acer Inc., which has posted two straight annual losses amid a slumping PC market, today announced a tablet using Windows 8 and another with Android," Bloomberg reported Monday morning.

It's not just Acer that's shifting focus. Dell and Hewlett-Packard are each developing new tablet devices. If these traditional PC makers are to survive and thrive in the coming years, they'll need to catch up with their peers and grab a sizable share of the tablet market. In just a few short years, PCs could very well become tech dinosaurs relegated to your work cubicle.

Forget about phones. If you're thinking about buying tech stocks, you need to keep a close eye on the tablet market over the next 12 to 18 months. That's where you'll find the best growth opportunities.

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