Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

How Big is the Tablet Market?

Given that three years ago the tablet market was a euphemism for drug dealing, it's remarkable that we now regard the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nexus tablets as part of the technical equipment furniture.  Thanks to Amazon's notorious reluctance to talk numbers even with shareholders  - how irritating that must be - we don't know how many Kindle Fires have been sold but we do know it must be a few by the amount we see turning up in public.  However we do know that Apple have shifted over 100 million iPads of various designs so that sets the baseline down.  Various industry estimates suggest that there are about 140 million tablets in use today worldwide and recent figures suggest that between Apple, Amazon and Google they hope to shift between 15 and 30 million units before Christmas day.  Looking at the adverts on TV and the conversations I seem to drift into they are probably correct.

My instinct is that some of these purchases are going to be at the expense of dedicated eReaders, another market that didn't exist until relatively recently and one that seems about to disappear at the very point that it matures.  Many potential eReader customers are eyeing the lower cost tablets and deciding that the extra utility and marginal extra cost is worth sacrificing the battery life and sunlight reading benefits for.  I've said on several occasions that eReaders will sell well this year, after all there are some real good budget models available for cash strapped consumers to buy, but this will be their peak.  From January, it'll be tablets we'll see being read on the bus and tube.

So how big is this market?  One analyst has recently suggested that it is already at saturation point based on the contention that there are only so many people prepared to use a tablet in lieu of a conventional computer. I disagree, but I see where he was coming from.  You see, tablets are not a replacement for laptops, not yet.  Sure you can type on an iPad or Nexus, I've written blog entries on mine before now, but for most of my writing, either this blog or my novel writing, I turn to my trusty laptop with MS Word loaded on.  When I balance the home accounts I don't try and do that on an iPad, I need Excel.  And if I want to print something off, regardless of where it came from, how it originated, I don't even consider the Nexus.

But these are technological hurdles that will be overcome in the next couple of years and it isn't the case that the tablets are short of capability - email is a breeze, watching movies, all those apps, surfing the Net, jotting down notes, engaging on Twitter, abusing on Facebook - in fact most of the things we do on our laptops for  a large part of their life, only more conveniently - no long winded boot sequences for starters, always on and ready to roll.

In fact tablets and traditional computers can sit side by side and actually complement each other nicely, thank you.  It's probable that future generations of tablets will render the traditional computer redundant, but for now they not only co-exist harmoniously, they complement each other.  Which means that probably everyone who uses a computer will find a use for a tablet.  And many of those who don't generally use a  computer will still find a tablet useful - witness the growing number of silver surfers who have eschewed the use of computers who are now engaging with iPads, surfing the Net and poking each other on Facebook.  And there's evidence to suggest that kids are being given tablets for their own use by grandparents who hope they will help with the homework.  Parents know better, but hey ho.

And let's not forget the eBook market which is fast approaching parity with the print market and will overtake it in a couple of years. We may prefer to write our books on laptops, but tablets are how they will be read.

So how big is the tablet market?  Well, at least as big as the home computer market has been up to now with the addition of the reluctant pensioners and the kids who wouldn't traditionally have been given their own PC.  That's one big market that is going to keep on growing through 2013 and probably won't stabilise until 2014 or beyond.


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