Tablet ownership is about to pass the 50 % mark in the US, and love of the devices shows no sign of abating.
According to the latest Parks Associates research, tablet ownership has now spread to 48 % of US broadband homes -- a 33 % increase over the past year. And although it's clear that one of the reasons that consumers have become so hooked on the devices is their ease of use (compared with crowding around a computer to view a website or share photos), serious competition between companies, from Amazon and Google to Samsung and Microsoft is also having a positive effect on their popularity. There are now well-made tablets at every point in the price spectrum and this competition is expected to heat up further as the year progresses, which can only be good news for consumers.
"Amazon has expanded the low end of the tablet market with the Kindle Fire, whereas Microsoft is making a credible push at the higher end," said Jennifer Kent, senior analyst, Parks Associates. "The software giant's renewed focus on the success of the Surface Pro, after the disappointing traction of the more-limited Surface RT, will mean better options for consumers shopping for top-of-the-line tablets. Efforts by content providers such as Viacom, which offers apps and services to view its content on tablets, will also help drive wider tablet adoption by offering consumers more content options on mobile screens."
Challenging traditional PCs
The better specified tablets are also now challenging traditional PCs -- US tablet sales overtook desktop sales for the first time in 2012 and if the growth continues, they will also overtake notebook sales within the next 12 months.
"The tablet is taking market share from other devices with overlapping functionality, but its continued growth depends on manufacturers' ability to continue to carve out a niche that differentiates the tablet from other form factors while also complementing them," Kent said.
In June, Acer officially launched the Iconia W3, the world's first 8-inch full Windows 8 tablet, which although low on build quality, offers consumers a device that can be held in one hand for browsing and multimedia consumption, or docked with a keyboard and used like a true Windows 8 notebook and for the sum of $379. As such it also gives a clear indication of one of the future tablet trends.
Earlier this week, Google launched the second-generation Nexus 7, a premium seven-inch Android tablet at a mid-level $229 price which will act as a performance and specifications blueprint for all other Android tablet manufacturers or the next 12 months.
During the launch, the company also revealed that there are currently 70 million active Android tablet users in the world where Google and its app store have a presence. The world's largest PC maker, HP, is actively experimenting with the Android operating system to create hybrid devices that combine Android tablet functionality with PC productivity and according to a report this week in Digitimes is expected to launch an aggressively priced ($99) tablet aimed at US college kids this September.
Even Apple, though pretending to be oblivious to what other companies are doing, has been linked to the development of a cheaper, entry-level, lower specification iPad Mini which could launch as soon as Spring 2014.
Considering that it has taken smartphones seven years to become ubiquitous, it's incredible how fast tablets have caught on. The first iPad was only launched three years ago but already the market and the types of devices on offer has exploded so much that even the leading experts are struggling to keep track of the changes and features and how they impact consumers' mobile lives.