Tablets Not Replacements for PCs, Generally Speaking

Forecasters are virtually unanimous in forecasting pressure on PC sales and an uptick in tablet sales, with the commonplace assertion that “tablets are replacing PCs.”  In some cases that probably is the case. In other cases one might argue smart phones are displacing PCs.


Some of us would argue that mostly, tablets are a new device in the consumer market, not so much displacing PCs as representing an attractive new content consumption device. In that sense, tablets "displace" PCs primarily because there is latent demand for content consumption that previously was hidden because people were using PCs and notebook PCs to consume content, even when many of the other features of a PC were not required.


According to a YuMe study, some 81 percent of tablet owners watch TV shows and video on their tablets.


According to Gartner, half of device screen time is spent accessing entertainment, with people primarily playing video games, reading books, listening to radio, podcasts or music and watching video content.


“Of the different types of activity, people spend by far the most time on entertainment, and people often use several devices at once, so it seems we are turning into a society of multitasking, multi-screen users,” said Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Tablet users, for example, continue to use tablets most in the evening, between 7pm and 10pm.”


That would suggest tablets are used as companions to television viewing and other living-room activities.


Smart phones are used more for ad hoc research or quick sessions on social media websites while on the move or engaged in another screen activity.


The remaining screen time is used for communication, which represents 26 percent of device use, production activities, 15 percent, and researching information, nine percent. Gartner based these results on a survey of 726 tablet owners in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.


The average participant was found to spend an average four hours per day using a tablet, smartphone or computer.

The point, one might argue, is that tablets are not so much replacements for PCs as they are a convenient new content consumption screen. In some cases, tablets are used for work, but arguably mostly for work-related consumption or work-related email and messaging.
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