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Tablet Reality Check

By on March 9, 2012No Comment

Still a bit heavy...

With this week’s announcement of the new iPad and expectations for high sales and increased tablet ownership at all-time highs, it is worth taking a minute to review the tablet landscape.

According to Pew Research, as of January 2012 the number of adults in theU.S.who own a tablet stands at 19%.  That number doubled from mid-December, due to the holiday season and driven by the introduction of lower cost tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet.  Interestingly, the numbers for e-reader ownership are identical, with 19% ofU.S.adults owning one.  Apple CEO Tim Cook went so far as to predict in a recent speech that tablets will soon outsell PCs.  I would argue that at least in the short term, a more likely prediction is the continuing blurring of the lines between mobile and PC operating systems (see the recently announced Windows 8 and Apple OS X Mountain Lion), allowing tablets to function as extensions of a user’s PC.

Options for tablet ownership have expanded significantly as the number of companies releasing Android-based tablets has risen.  However, the iPad still dominates the market with 59%, according to February estimates by DisplaySeach.  The iPad is followed by Amazon (17%), Samsung (7%), Asus (4.6%), and Barnes and Noble (3.5%).

Size options abound for tablets.  The standard remains around 10”, with the iPad at 9.7”, but Samsung in particular has released tablets in 10.1”, 8.9”, 7”, and recently, 5”.  Samsung’s 5” Galaxy Note is more of a phone/tablet hybrid than pure tablet, but the company now plans to release larger versions of the Note.  The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are both 7”, but are underpowered compared to the more expensive iPad and Android offerings on the market.  Both run heavily modified versions of Android and essentially form a sub-set of tablets, halfway between an e-reader and a full featured tablet.

Consumers are using tablets in a variety of locations.  Seventy percent use tablets while they watch TV, according to Nielsen data from May 2011.  A further 50% report tablet use while in bed and one in four tablet owners uses it in the bathroom.  Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, tablet use leads to decreased use of both desktop PCs (35% report less use) and laptops (32%).  As of one year ago, in March 2011, Google AdMob found that when using tablets, the most reported activity is gaming (84%), followed by search (78%) and e-mail (74%).

Personally, as I have struggled to find the perfect use for my own tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, I find myself reflected in these statistics.  I certainly have ended up using the tablet while watching TV and while in bed, and gaming search as well as light e-mailing suit the form factor and capabilities of the tablet perfectly.  Because (as a writer) I work with words, I have not found a way to use the tablet for work, although I can see how some professions, such as artists who need to show work to clients, would find tablets helpful.

Oh, and here is what you really came for.  Apple unveiled a new iPad with a sharper display and support for 4G mobile data networks.  The new third-generation iPad has a high resolution Retina display with four times the number of pixels found in the iPad 2.   Also aboard the new iPad is a five-megapixel rear camera that is capable of 1080p video recording, and includes built-in video stabilization. The iPad is powered by an A5X processor with quad-core graphics that is designed to support the Retina display and also be power efficient.  For more information, please read full coverage at Frequent Business Traveler.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.  He can be reached at cburke@basex.com

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