By Anna Miars

Gone are the days of sitting down at a computer to send e-mails or look at photos. Simple, everyday computing no longer necessitates an actual computer.

Computing’s third major technology wave, which includes smartphones and tablets, will soon outsell laptops and desktop computers.

Research firm, International Data Corporation (IDC), forecasts that handheld devices will overtake use of personal computers as soon as next year.

Published on Dec. 2, 2010, the report, Welcome to the New Mainstream, predicts that more than 330 million smartphones and 42 million media tablets will be sold worldwide in 2011.

If IDC’s estimates are correct, the number of non-PC devices capable of running software applications will outsell PCs within the next 18 months.

The availability of affordable, entry-level smartphones in emerging markets such as China and India will increase the sales of such devices by 24 percent according to IDC.

Tablet sales are expected to more than double next year, and to keep climbing. The tablet phenomenon, as IDC describes it, continues to boom as nine alternatives to the iPad will soon be available for purchase.

Mobility is king

A recent study from mobile app developer Handmark validates the increasing use of mobile devices, supporting IDC’s prediction.

“In a survey of 300,000 mobile consumers, 88 percent of whom owned a device running one the five most popular smartphone operating systems, more than 30 percent said that mobile is the “most important medium” to access breaking news, narrowly followed by desktop web browsers (29 percent), television (21 percent) and newspapers (3 percent).”

“Breaking news happens all throughout the day, and what you have throughout the day is your mobile device,” said Handmark CEO Paul Reddick in a Mashable article titled Smartphone Users Prefer Mobile for Breaking News. “Once you get into the habit of using your mobile … you [can] be in a room with a TV and not turn it on, because you’re reading your news on your mobile device instead.”

The same goes for personal computers. How often do you find yourself using your smartphone while sitting in front of a computer?

“In 2011—for the first time—there will be over 2 billion users on the Internet, and about half of those will access the Internet through a non-PC mobile device—a more than tenfold increase in just the past five years.”

New applications will continue to maximize the utility of smartphones and tablets and accelerate their adoption. IDC predicts that the idea of the “app store” will spread to PC software and continue to inspire enterprise apps.

“The PC-centric era is over,” the IDC report said.

Survey:

I’m curious if each of you use your smartphone more often than your personal computer to check e-mail, look at photos, access Twitter and Facebook, etc.?

I use my iPhone to write and answer e-mails, check the weather, update my calendar, tweet, etc., much more than my laptop. The only significant time I spend seated in front of a computer is at work (class too!) and even then I find myself using my phone quite a bit.

If you have a chance, please leave a comment with a brief description of your mobile device use. Thanks!

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