With devices like Amazon's Kindle Fire and the upcoming Surface by Microsoft freeing would-be tablet buyers not interested in the iPad from the tyranny of Apple's ecosystem, there's something in the tablet space for everyone, regardless of platform affinity (webOS notwithstanding). What that's going to do over the course of the next several years is propel demand for tablet PCs past that of traditional notebooks, though don't mistake that to mean laptops are dead.

On the contrary, DisplaySearch's Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report predicts that notebook PC shipments will grow from 208 million units in 2012 to 393 million by 2017. Pretty good, right? Tablets are expected to perform even better, ballooning from 121 million units to 416 million units in the same time frame, and actually surpassing notebook shipments a year earlier in 2016.

"Consumer preference for mobile computing devices is shifting from notebook to tablet PCs, particularly in mature markets," said Richard Shim, senior analyst at NPD DisplaySearch. "While the lines between tablet and notebook PCs are blurring, we expect mature markets to be the primary regions for tablet PC adoption. New entrants are tending to launch their initial products in mature markets. Services and infrastructure needed to create compelling new usage models are often better established in mature markets."

It's hard to imagine tablet PCs replacing notebooks outright, but the two segments do seem to be moving closer towards each other. The Ultrabooks of tomorrow will be even thinner and lighter than they already are and sport touchscreens, while tablets like Microsoft's Surface are starting to implement hardware keyboards. Five years is an eternity in tech time, and it will be interesting to see what separates a notebook from a tablet by the time 2017 rolls into view.

Original Post by Paul Lilly, Reposted Courtesy of Maximum PC – Covering everything from hi-end gaming PCs to tablets, peripherals and home theater rigs, Maximum PC's print and Web editions stay one step ahead of the fast-changing world of everything computer and computing related. Whether its the latest on building your own desktop system, reviews of the latest laptops and accessories, or roundups of the games and software that make your machine go, Maximum PC brings it to you with news, reviews, and years of expertise. TechnoBuffalo is thrilled to bring you the best of Maximum PC right here on our own pages to keep you immersed in all things digital.