Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tablet Buyers Are Early Adopters: What Does That Mean Now, and for Future Sales?

U.S. online consumers who own or intend to buy iPads and other tablets fit a typical early-adopter profile, and their characteristics have implications for product strategists designing tablets to compete with the iPad, says Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

They own multiple PCs and connected devices; they’re voracious media consumers; and they have an affinity for other Apple products but aren’t exclusively “Apple-ites.”

On average, consumers who own or intend to buy an iPad (“iPad buyers”) have 3.6 PCs at home, compared with three PCs for consumers who own or intend to buy a tablet (“tablet buyers”) and 2.3 for all US online consumers, says Rotman Epps.

All of that is important for manufacturers who want to enter the market now. What remains unclear is how characteristics might need to be modified to appeal to the greater mass of "typical" users who are not early adopters, may not own so many other devices, and arguably will be less willing to spend as much money on a tablet.

Of particular note is the rate of netbook ownership: 24 percent of iPad buyers already own a netbook, compared with 16 percent of tablet buyers and eight percent of all U.S. online consumers.

Potential iPad buyers also live in an ecosystem of connected devices, she says.  A whopping 69 percent of iPad buyers and 57 percentof tablet buyers also own a latest-generation game console,  compared with 37 percent of all US online consumers. Also, iPad buyers are four times as likely as U.S. online consumers to own a connected TV (nine percent, compared to two percent).

Some 24 percent of iPad buyers own wireless speakers compared to six percent of other U.S. online consumers.

Also,  iPad and tablet buyers are more likely to store data in the cloud.  Some 33 percent of iPad buyers say they store files in their email inbox and 12 percent say they use an online storage service. About 24 percent of all online users say they store files in their email inbox and four percent say they use an online storage service.

Tablet buyers really care about media as well. Compared with all U.S. online consumers, they are more likely to use every type of media. In addition, they spend more hours consuming all types of media than all US online consumers do, with the exception of offline TV.

These characteristics have obvious implicaions for would-be tablet manufacturers.

Tablets don’t have to, and shouldn’t, recreate the complexity of the PC. Curated computing experiences
that are simple and streamlined, seem both possible and desirable.

Better media experience and tablets optimized for enterprise use also suggest design avenues.  Perhaps there are ways to provide a better media experience or are designed for business use. Specialized devices aimed at children also are conceivable.

Also, other devices and peripherals might assume new importance as complementary to tablets. For example, consumers who own tablets will still need computers with keyboards, bigger screens, and more processing power, but they may not need the portability of a laptop anymore, so desktops could see some renewed interest if marketed correctly, says Rotman Epps. They’ll also need printers and other peripherals that “talk” to tablets.

It is pretty clear where demand is right now. The bigger question, over the longer term, is how tablet characteristics might have to be modified to appeal to most consumers who are not early adopters.

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