Tablets started out as, more or less, a novelty item, but came into their own when sales of Apple's iPad took off after its launch in 2010, The New York Times reported Monday.
But Apple's new Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said recently, "From the first day it shipped, we thought -- not just me, many of us thought at Apple -- that the tablet market would become larger than the PC market, and it was just a matter of the time that it took for that to occur."
Cook's predecessor at Apple Steve Jobs, who died in October, made the same prediction -- even though the forecast might have appeared outlandish at the time.
Industry analysts at Canalyst, a research firm, said personal computers or PCs outsold tablets 20 to one in 2010. But PC sales have been stagnant for the past two years, while table sales have jumped.
The current ratio of PC to tablet sales is six to one.
If that wasn't eye-opening enough, consider the results at Apple. The firm sold 15 million iPads in October through December of 2011, generating $9.15 billion in revenue in that period.
"Tablets are on fire, there's no question about that," said former Microsoft executive Brad Silverberg, who is now a venture capitalist in Seattle.
At Piper Jaffray, analyst Gene Munster has said 2017 is the year tablet sales would surpass PC sales. At Asymco, a research firm in Finland, analyst Horace Dediu said that prediction was four years too late, pointing to 2013 as the year tablet sales would eclipse PCs.
One reason to suspect sales will continue to soar is the introduction of Amazon's Kindle Fire, which was launched in the fall and is poised, with a sales price of $199, to compete well with the iPad.
In addition, Microsoft's touch-screen operating system Windows 8 will be installed in several competing devices soon.