Forget fanboyism. Follow the money

The iPad. Apple has sold one or two of them

Another quarter, another set of record-breaking financial results from Apple. Mac sales are up. iPad sales are up. iPhone sales are up. iPod Touch sales are up. If Apple makes it, it's making more money from it than ever before.

It's just a matter of time before Steve Jobs buys the moon.

Impressive as they are, though, the headline figures don't tell the whole story. Apple's figures demonstrate that something interesting is happening in computing. The portables are taking over.

Mac sales continued to grow this quarter, and laptops accounted for the - sorry - lion's share: nearly three-quarters of Macs sold were MacBooks, MacBook Pros or MacBook Airs. That's not a huge surprise for a firm whose laptops have always been the main attraction, but what is surprising is that iPads are already outselling those Macs, and every other kind of Mac, by a factor of two to one.

Factor in Apple's staggering iPhone sales and the growing importance of the iPod touch, which now accounts for more than half of all iPod sales, and it's clear that Apple is a mobile device firm first and a computer firm second.

Here comes the future

The trend we're seeing here isn't limited to Apple: Google's Android continues to do astonishing numbers too. In 2002, the number of PCs in the world reached 1 billion. That took twenty-one years. After just four years, the combined sales of iOS and Android are nearing the half-billion mark already.

Juniper Research tells me that smartphone shipments were 320 million last year; by 2016, the firm says, tech firms will be shipping a billion smartphones per year. For many people smartphones are already their main internet devices; that trend is only going to continue as such phones get smarter, cheaper and even more popular.

This isn't the end of the PC. Quite the opposite: it's the rebirth of the PC. I'd argue that an app-stuffed iPod touch or Android tablet is more of a personal computer than the desktop PC ever was: instead of demanding you come to them and learn their weird ways, modern devices are instant and effortless. And the PC is learning from that.

Today's launch of OS X Lion will make the Mac more iOS-y, and next year's Windows 8 will make desktops and laptops more Windows Phone-y. Factor in the rise of cloud computing and the term PC could mean pretty much anything with a screen.

Steve Jobs calls it the post-PC era. Maybe that's the wrong term. From where I'm sitting, it looks like we're entering the interesting-PC era.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.