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IPad: The PC Killer

Why the iPad’s success may spell the end of the computer industry as we know it
IPad: The PC Killer
Photographs by Bloomberg

After he unveiled the iPad at a San Francisco conference center in early 2010, the late Steve Jobs spent a few minutes asking people holding the device for the first time what they thought of it. A reporter suggested it might make consumers forget why they needed a laptop computer. Jobs shrugged his shoulders and said, coyly, “We’ll see.” Jobs was a master not just at anticipating paradigm shifts but creating them. If tablets eventually did eclipse the laptop and desktop businesses, Jobs was determined that Apple would reap the windfall.

That day has arrived. On March 19, the same day Jobs’s successor, Tim Cook, declared Apple would disburse some of its $98 billion cash stockpile as dividends, the company announced it had sold 3 million new iPads in their first weekend of release. The product is expected to bring in $38 billion in sales in 2012, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. In the fourth quarter of 2011, Apple sold 15.4 million iPads—more than the number of PCs sold by Hewlett-Packard, the world’s No. 1 maker of Wintel PCs. If you consider an iPad a PC substitute—and many consumers certainly do—then Apple, which also produces the iMac and MacBook, is now the biggest PC maker in the world.