Smartphones have their own mobile operating system. The first smartphone to find a widespread market was the Blackberry, but that quickly lost ground after Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007. That was followed by smartphones powered by Google’s Android mobile operating system.
Smartphone boom won't kill PC, say analysts
The shift to smartphones and tablets became a landslide this year, crushing desire for laptop computers and pressuring manufacturers to adapt to the mobile internet era.
The trend promises to gain momentum next year, with people using handheld gadgets to remain connected to the web on the go and switching to sophisticated systems in home or office.
"Tablets will not kill PCs," Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett said. "Tablets will force them to evolve."
Signs that the evolution is under way include Microsoft overhauling Windows to synch the world's most widely used computer operating system with tablets and smartphones as well as desktops and laptops.
While people opt for tablets instead of laptops on the move, they will yearn for bigger screens and more processing power for "real work", say analysts.
Gillett contends that the limping economy is among factors behind a temporary lull in PC purchases destined to end as people "go through this illusion they will do it all on a tablet and realise they can't".
The market for tablets and smartphones is red-hot, leaving the PC as an afterthought for many. Microsoft, which was the biggest tech firm in 2009 because of its dominant Windows operating system for PCs, has fallen behind Apple and is struggling to remain a major force amid gains by Google and Amazon.
One-time giants such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell are struggling amid sluggish demand as sales of tablet computers and other devices surge.
But as analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley pointed out, China-based Lenovo is thriving by selling the gamut of computing devices.
"Lenovo is showing success in all categories, supporting the notion that while the market has more products, it is all still personal computing," Enderle said.
"Before we were buying a laptop or desktop computer," he added. "Now, we are increasingly carrying many products."