Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) recently released a study that opened by announcing, "Technology analysts and journalists alike have been premature in proclaiming the death of the PC." Feeling a little defensive, are we Dell?

Declaring the PC dead would be premature. That said, the growth, excitement, and potentially higher profit margins in the computer hardware business are shifting to tablets. What's more, some of Dell's "findings" seem at odds with its data.

Dell and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) paid Forrester Consulting to survey more than 1,700 North American information workers. According to Dell's report, notebooks and desktops are "must-have" devices while tablets are merely "nice-to-have."

Dell did confess that, "during certain times, in certain locations, or when mobile" nonstandard form factors such as tablets are preferable. What, did they think nobody who bought an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad, Samsung Galaxy, or Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI) Xoom already owned a computer?

Dell noted tablets "don't displace existing PCs; rather, they replace paper-based systems ... and introduce new productivity places that previously didn't exist..." It sounds like companies will get a lot more productivity -- which is high on corporate priority lists -- from buying tablets rather than replacing PCs.

Dell also pointed out that tablets introduce new IT challenges. Duh, what new technology doesn't? Despite these challenges, 26% of IT decision-makers expect the number of non-PC devices to grow by more than 25% over the next two years. Only 13% of survey respondents indicated they hadn't "seen/heard any interest" in tablets. More than half indicated interest in tablets at the senior executive, group, departmental, and/or company-wide level. Thus, tablets could offer a PC maker lot more opportunity than battling it out in the slow-growth or no-growth desktop and notebook business.

Foolish takeaway
Dell does its best to use the study to marginalize tablets and promote the usefulness of desktops and notebooks. But the data suggest tablets could be a key driver of revenue and profit growth over the next few years for Dell, Apple, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) and other companies. Too bad Dell hasn't really gotten traction in tablets.

Is Dell fooling itself, offering up more reason to believe the company just doesn't get its customers? Or do you think Dell is trying to fool others, including investors like you and me? To help you stay on top of the tablet war and more, the Motley Fool recently introduced a free My Watchlist feature to help watch your back. You can get up-to-date news and analysis by adding companies to your Watchlist now: