Tablets take central role

02 March 2011

NEW YORK: Tablets like Apple's iPad are set to become the "control point" for consumers' media use at home, a new study has argued.

McKinsey, the consultancy, reported 14.8m iPads were sold in the nine months after this product was launched, including 1m in its first 28 days on sale, a benchmark the iPhone took three months to achieve.

"In retrospect, the success of the iPad was certainly not obvious when Apple decided to develop it," the company added.

"The iPad, in effect, created its own market - one that dozens of competitors are now entering."

To gain an insight into the attitudes and habits of people owning these devices, McKinsey conducted qualitative and quantitative analysis, alongside observing users at home.

Browsing the internet and watching video constituted the most common pastimes utilising Apple's slate, but just 16% of the panel always carried the iPad with them while on the move.

However, this gadget is starting to supplant laptops and PCs for gaming, quick searches and email, is increasingly a tool for reading books, newspapers and magazines, and replaces other channels when viewing video in bed.

Exactly 60% of the sample had downloaded ten apps or more, and early adopters spent €27 doing so during the month after obtaining the Apple-made appliance.

Although the 300,000 offerings in the App Store were typically meant for the iPhone, McKinsey suggested this could change rapidly as iPad demand rises.

Only 30% of consumers possessing a 3G-enabled iPad had subscribed to a data package empowering them to go online wherever they choose, and the rest used WiFi as appropriate.

"Still, we see nomadic usages developing," the company stated.

When assessing overall impressions about the iPad, 98% of contributors expressed satisfaction with the iPad, and 95% proved willing to recommend it to a friend.

The main benefits cited incorporated its intuitive operation, speed, resolution quality, reliability and portability.

While many customers bought this device without knowing precisely how they would use it, 64% perceive the iPad as delivering "extremely good value", and 33% saw it as "somewhat good value".

The primary negative aspect was said to be the lack of a USB port, complicating the accessing and sharing of information such as photos and film.

Elsewhere, greater storage capacity and processing power may enhance the customer experience, and make the iPad a "central hub" for media use.

The absence of Adobe Flash, a long-term issue for Apple products, also restricts the functionality of some websites and games, and the iPad is too big, and limited in terms of playback, to serve as a music player.

Despite this, McKinsey remained bullish, saying: "Tablets are likely to become the control point of home entertainment.

"The goal should be to create an interactive experience across devices, allowing consumers to search, program and engage with content they watch on TV."

For media brands, the iPad has potential as a subscription and aggregation source for radio, newspapers and magazines, even if Wired's app downloads dropped off after a few months once the "novelty wore off".

Telecoms networks, facing bandwidth pressure as video consumption grows, need to cater for occasional usage through pre-paid packages, build one-click payment models and provide WiFi-based bundles.

Indeed, opportunities exist to establish a trusted WiFi brand, particularly as a disappointing 30,000 iPads were sold by Orange in France over the 2010 holiday period due to concerns linked to data costs.

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff