Tablets Are Changing User Behavior

By Gary Kim June 29, 2011

Today’s early tablet adopters are using print media, PCs, and other devices less often than they used to, according to Sarah Rotman Epps, Forrester Research analyst. Some 31 percent of tablet owners surveyed report they are using their PCs less, while 26 percent are using their notebooks or laptops less.

Of the tablet owners surveyed, 23 percent reported using their portable game player less, while 20 percent said they are using their iPod or MP3 player less. About 15 percent reported using their mobile phone less than they used to.

E-reader use seemed to be lower in about 11 percent of cases, while nine percent reported lower use of their game consoles. Some nine percent say they use television less.

Tablet early adopters, though arguably different from tomorrow’s mainstream adopters, nevertheless seemingly are changing their content habits as well, not just their hardware habits.

Of tablet owners surveyed by Forrester Research, 32 percent reported that their tablet use has been accompanied by less use of print newspapers. About 28 percent say they have reduced use of printed books, while 23 percent indicated they use print magazines less.

About 12 percent to 30 percent of tablet owners say they purchased the tablet device instead of a PC, laptop or e-reader. About 25 percent to 45 percent of tablet owners say they use their tablet more than their PC even when both devices are available. 

For some, the most important implications of tablet use are not the devices tablets compete with, but the ways application usage and time commitments change. There are some scenarios where PCs still will remain the preferred device. Office settings, where heavy content production is required, still seem to be the province of the PC. It might be reasonable to predict that tablets and smart phones will largely be preferred elsewhere than the office.

Tablets also seem poised to displace portable game players, but not consoles. Casual gaming seems to work fine on tablets, while more-complex games still require a console.

Video consumption in the living room still seems the province of the HDTV, while PCs are used at work and in offices, and tablets will be used elsewhere. There seems little reason to dispute the prediction that tablets will take share from offline products, PCs and e-readers.

Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., argues that consumers do have a different kind of relationship with their mobile broadband services than with their wireline services.

“Certain behaviors encourage the use of certain appliances and vice versa, and both of these affect the demand for bandwidth and the nature of where that demand will occur,” Nolle said. He believes that the slower users move, the more likely they are to use more capacity.

There also is evidence that mobile device behaviors, though possibly not tablet behaviors, are constrained by physical issues. A survey by Antenna Software suggested that there were many popular applications that smart phone users would use, on their smart phones, if physical constraints were not an issue.

Google's AdMob division surveyed 1,430 tablet owners and found that gaming was far and away the most frequent activity. 84 percent of those surveyed claimed they played games, easily outpacing other entertainment choices including music/video (51 percent) and ebooks (46 percent).

Gaming even beat out standard tablet tasks like searching for information (78 percent), emailing (74 percent), and reading news (61 percent).

Gary Kim is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Contributing Editor

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