While the PC is still most people's go to device for digital creativity, word processing and home movie editing, its days as an internet browser are numbered.
More than a third of consumers have abandoned desktops and notebooks in favor of smartphones and tablets for surfing the web, using social media and playing games. Among tablet owners, 27 percent say they're using their computer less and less, particularly for browsing and 20 percent say they're using it less often for accessing Facebook. Likewise, 27 percent of smartphone owners say that they now use their handset, rather than a PC for both browsing and Facebook.
The report, by NPD Group, found that consumers still rely on their computers -- for example, internet browsing is still highest among PC owners (75%) -- but mobile devices are quickly catching up, with 61 percent of smartphone owners and 53 percent of tablet owners using their devices for internet access. What's more, connected TVs are also starting to grow in popularity as another way of accessing online content. Twenty-one percent of connected TV owners say that they now use their TV rather than their computer, for video streaming.
The three most popular activities on tablets that were once computer-only activities are browsing the web; using Facebook; and playing free games and reading newspapers and magazines (both activities tied for third place). Smartphones are causing the same levels of disruption in the same areas, though uploading photographs is more popular than gaming or reading magazines.
"Despite these shifts in behavior, computers will remain the fundamental content creation device in consumer's tool box for many years to come," said John Buffone, director of devices, Connected Intelligence. "Consumers, however, are switching their entertainment-centric behaviors to tablets, smartphones, and connected TVs at warp speed. During 2013 this trend will be further perpetuated as more mobile devices become enabled with screen sharing technologies such as AllShare and Miracast that allow users to bridge their mobile devices to their TV screens."
This growing trend should not come as a surprise for smartphone and tablet owners. Mobile devices have not only made accessing the internet easy, they have also made it a more comfortable and sociable experience -- being able to sit on a sofa with friends and family or around a table at a cafe, rather than gathered around a desk staring at a fixed screen from an angle while one person sits and types. The only surprise will be how PC makers react to this trend. Will they look to develop hybrid notebook/tablet devices such as Microsoft's Surface Pro or Sony's giant desktop-cum-tablet Vaio Tap 20? Or will they focus their energies on building PCs that continue to deliver the core functionality that tablets and smartphones and even notebooks are yet to equal?