I don’t often refer to competitors’ reports as the analyst community generally likes to maintain a friendly distance. But Canalys’ announcement that tablets should be counted as PCs pretty much forces a reaction.

Canalys appears to be taking a technology-based approach to segmentation. So the fact that tablets have fast processors, can run productivity applications, offer email, and can access the internet, puts them in the same category as PCs, which also do these things. The absence of a keyboard, and the presence of a touch screen, are seen merely as customer options, just as one might specify a blu-ray disc drive or extra memory.

Canalys concludes that the “PC” market is therefore doing extremely well at the moment, largely because of the success of the tablet category.

Segmentation arguments are one of the many joys of industry analysis. Lines are invariably blurred, definitions hazy and perspectives inevitably conflicting. Market forecast buyers must always ensure they understand what is and is not included in any given segment, as this is often a key reason for variations in market estimates from one source to another.

But in spite of these challenges, Canalys seems to be stretching things just a little too far on this occasion. If we want to count the market for “computing devices”, fair enough. Let’s bundle in desktops, notebooks, netbooks, tablets, MIDs, smartphones, and a fair few TV set-top boxes and other devices as well while we are at it. They all offer a similar combination of technical functions, though each is clearly better suited to some more than others.

However precise we try to be about technology or functional definitions, sooner or later, we also have to consider user perceptions. If it surfs like a tablet, plays games like a tablet, and stimulates envy like a tablet, it probably is a tablet. And no amount of ivory tower contemplation will persuade Apple’s iPad customers they have bought a “PC”, however much Microsoft and Intel might wish they had.

Good luck with this one, my friends - you are going to need it.

David Mercer

Client Reading: Global Tablet Sales Forecast by Country