How long will the iPad fever last?

2011: the year of media tablets

Although there were tablets in the market long before iPad, after its first announcement many still had doubts, and questioned the usefulness of such a device. Nevertheless Apple exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. Since the release of the iPad, Apple alone has shipped a total of 15 million tablets making it a most wanted Christmas present of 2010. Despite a temporary volume decrease in Q1 2011, caused by delayed iPad 2 launch, in Q2 2011 again there were 9.25 million iPads shipped.

Apple still is the clear leader of the market, but it opened the door to many other OEMs, including RIM, Samsung, HP, Motorola and other. Already in January 2011, more than 100 new media tablets from 50 OEMs were announced at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES), followed by many more in subsequent months. The major mobile device manufacturers rush to gain a share of another market, recreated by Apple, just like in the smartphones and app market two years ago.

Where is the media tablets market headed?

The tablet was quickly embraced by customers, in part due to their previous adoption of application-driven devices, such as the iPhone. Nevertheless media tablets are still perceived as niche devices, without clear, mass-market functionality. In order to understand if the iPad fever will last and if only early adopters have fed the demand or if the mass market will adopt the tablet we will have a look at the challenges and drivers of the tablet market.

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Challenges for media tablet adoption

Throughout the period of the tablet’s introduction, and its subsequent success, questions have been raised as to the sustainability of its growth. Tablets have several drawbacks which are likely to affect this:

  • Entertainment tool: First, despite the fact that enterprises and professionals have embraced tablets, based on owner surveys its primary use appears to be as a home-based entertainment tool. Although many users expect to use it to ease professional routine prior to purchase, only 20% of iPad owners use it on the go, versus 80% who use it exclusively at home.
  • Relatively lower capabilities: Second, it was developed as a software-use oriented device and is not as convenient for making calls, or taking pictures, as smartphones are. However, in terms of technical performance, the media tablets at the moment can hardly compete with existing netbooks or notebooks, and are not capable of performing more complex tasks.
  • Limited portability: Third, in terms of mobility, the size of media tablets may be a constraint, particularly when compared to mobile phones. They are not as portable as mobile phones, and therefore are not always at hand. They require certain ergonomic positioning and specific locations to comfortably use the device. This defines and limits the range of successful tablet use-cases.

What will drive the media tablet usage?

On the other hand, the following features of media tablets may drive tablet adoption:

  • Improved portability and connectivity: Media tablets were designed to be application-driven devices. They are much more convenient for certain actions, such as reading books or playing games, than laptops or smartphones. Their lightweight design is better for people often on the road. Generally it’s more appealing for leisurely use at home than laptops.
  • Innovative OS and application support: Within less than a year since the launch of the iPad, dedicated app stores gathered more than 75,000 customized native applications. Apps were a key selling point for smartphones, and are likely to be just as important a selling point for media tablets.
  • Users’ engagement in apps: Furthermore, iPad users download more and are willing to pay more for apps than iPhone and general Smartphone users. This encourages developers to develop more apps for the media tablets which create a robust ecosystem for quality content.
  • Use integration into enterprises: There are more and more enterprises which integrate media tablets into their daily operation. According to estimates, there are around 200,000 tablets in use in enterprises. Coinciding with the increase of enterprise apps, we believe that tablets will be wider used in enterprises as another light-weight operational tool.

More insights and figures on media tablets market, e.g., shipment forecasts, media tablet shares by OS, user demographics and application market reviews, are included in research2guidance’s “Media Tablet Market” special insights report.

How will the tablet market develop? Please, share your opinion with us.

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