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Go ahead and call tablets a fad if you like. Each day brings more evidence that Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) dismissal of the form factor is ludicrous at best, dangerous at worst. The latest: new estimates that predict slowing PC sales in the face of an increasing appetite for tablets.

Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore issued the report in a note to clients yesterday, AppleInsider reports. You might remember Whitmore. He's the analyst who said that IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) is worth at least $200 a share. (I think he's lowballing.)

He also covers the PC market. Yesterday, he lowered his expectations for current-year PC unit sales growth from 9% to 4%, while upping his estimate for tablet unit sales from 40 million to 45 million. Why? Cannibalization. Roughly 30% of foreign buyers of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPad planned to use the device as a notebook replacement, AppleInsider says of the findings in Whitmore's report.

That's an astonishing claim. And it explains why, in the same report, Whitmore cut his price targets for both Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) .

The skeptic in me wonders whether Whitmore is being too optimistic. My wife has an iPad, and I'd never consider using it to replace my MacBook Pro. My work depends on having a high-function system available to me for hours at a time.

Yet I should also admit that I often beg to use her iPad when I need to pick up the kids from school. With 3G access, I can perform article and stock research while I wait in the car line. I've come to crave the device I once pooh-poohed as unnecessary.

So, my guess is Whitmore is right. Apple's iPad has become a productivity companion for some users, while others turn to the device for mobile gaming or the occasional TV bathroom break. (Seriously.)

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about the iPad, Apple's competitive positioning, and the future of PCs using the comments box below.

The Motley Fool recently introduced a free My Watchlist feature that allows users to stay ahead of the curve and receive up-to-date news on companies like Apple or any of its competitors. To get the latest Apple news and analysis, add the company to your watchlist today:

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended members create a bull call spread position in Apple and a diagonal call position in Microsoft. Motley Fool Alpha LLC owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, IBM, and Microsoft and has written Apple puts. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy estimates a 36% increase in your awesomeness in the year ahead.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (2)

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  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2011, at 5:35 PM, bghouse wrote:

    Really? Have you used the new iPad II? My understanding is that it's powerful enough for all but the most serious graphics/video pros ...

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2011, at 6:12 PM, myPad wrote:

    Computers are like cars. Now "everyone" in the middle class needs 2 in the "garage" - the iPad is the second computer for many (and the first for some.)

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2011, at 10:48 AM, Wtarlow2609 wrote:

    I use my iPad much more than I use my laptop at this point. My laptop is my main PC. Except for some online forms that don't worker adobe which annoys the hell out of me. And not being able to get the print app to work with my printer I could use the iPad almost exclusively. I would love to have the iPad 2 but I bought the 1 in sept and can't justify the splurge.

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