Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shipments of tablets to surpass notebook computers in 2013; shift may also bring a change in reading habits

Recent reports, including a new one from NPD DisplaySearch, show that shipments (or sales) of tablets will surpass those of notebook computers this year. What this means for those attempting to reach readers through either tablet editions, or through browser based publications, is most likely that new digital readers will be emerging, broadening the market for digital publications.

According to NPD DisplaySearch's Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report 240 million tablets will be shipped in 2013, far surpassing the estimated 207 million estimated shipments of notebook computers. The authors of the report conclude that the "shifting market dynamics are creating the opportunity for a greater variety of choices," a threat to Apple's dominance of the market.

This emphasis on the game of market share is really of no interest to me, as the tech websites are usually obsessed with keeping the score of such things.

But what does interest me is how owners of brand new tablets will use those tablets versus the ways they have used their old PCs. For those of us who work with PCs all day long, a tablet is seen as an entertainment tool – we wouldn't think of replacing our PCs with a tablet, except maybe when traveling.
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But many, many consumers have PCs that sit idle during much of the day, booted up only when the owner wants to surf the web, play games, etc. For these PC owners, a tablet is perfect replacement, lighter, quicker, and more flexible.

According to research from several digital publishing vendors, reading publications online, on a PC is the least popular platform for most people. Print still is preferred, of course, but the most popular digital format is the tablet or eReader.

With so many new tablet owners it would be expected that the market for digital magazines and newspaper would grow, this is obvious. But doesn the shift from PC to tablet also mean that the market for online publications, those being read in a browser would be reduced? Possibly not.

But for publishers that problem is that reaching the new readers will be harder than reaching early adapters that could mostly be found inside Apple's App Store. Changes to the App Store are making it harder for publishers to get their new tablet editions discovered, but the situation inside Apple's ecosystem is not much worse than inside Google Play or Amazon.com.

Future research, I believe, should include information on how long a reader has owned their tablet and whether their reading habits might be different, whether the reader is more likely to use their tablet's browser than individual apps. We may find that late adapters may use their tablets more like their old PCs when consuming media, and less as separate devices as has been the case until now.

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