Why Tim Cook expects tablet takeover in some homes

If Apple CEO Tim Cook‘s predictions are correct, some consumers will never buy a desktop computer. Tablets and smartphones could take over as the primary way some of them access the Internet, according a recent BuzzFeed interview with the chief executive.

“Because I think now we’re at the point where the iPad does what some people want to do with their PCs,” Cook told the news site.

The average consumer who only needs to check Facebook, send emails and watch streaming movies, for instance, only needs the computing power and the memory that a tablet can provide.

“Even today there are some people who only use their iPads as their main computer and it meets their needs just fine,” said Tim Bajarin, president of tech research firm Creative Strategies, in an email echoing Cook’s sentiment.

And that could increasingly be the case as more tablets are sold with detachable keyboards, like Microsoft‘s Surface and Apple’s new iPad Pro, which will be in stores in time for this holiday season.

“There is little innovation any one can bring to the clamshell [laptop] form factor and large tablets with keyboards deliver even greater flexibility when it comes to mobile computers,” Bajarin told CNBC.

Tablets invading the workplace

Even as worldwide PC sales are giving way to tablets, overall tablet sales are declining as the consumer market for those devices saturates, according to research firm IDC. But the use of tablets at work is growing.

Forrester Research expects that 20 percent of the total tablet market will be business owned by 2018, up from 14 percent this year. The firm expects that Apple, Google and Microsoft will still be jockeying for the position as the top tablet maker specifically for businesses in the next few years.

Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses the iPad during an Apple media event in San Francisco, September 9, 2015.

Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses the iPad during an Apple media event in San Francisco, September 9, 2015.

But the desktop computer and traditional “clamshell” laptop aren’t dead, analysts say.

While tablets with keyboards are the future of mobile computing, the traditional laptop is still a workhorse for businesses, noted Bajarin of Creative Strategies.

Desktops are not going away. They have tremendous power advantage … huge growth potential in developing markets, and a massive installed base within corporations,” said Eric Schiffer, chairman and CEO of Patriarch Private Equity in an email.

Why there’s still hope for the PC

Some laptop and desktop computer sales forecasts look bright in the long term.

Worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by 8.7 percent in 2015 and further in 2016, but they’re projected to stabilize in 2017, as the next refresh cycle means computer upgrades at home and at work, according to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker report released last month.

Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system could help boost PC sales as well, as CNBC previously reported.

While mobile devices may be enough for some users, Apple’s CEO said in his interview with BuzzFeed that he expects to see Mac sales grow in the long term.

—With additional reporting by CNBC’s Josh Lipton.

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