Tablets continue to bolster growth in the PC market, according to first quarter 2011 figures released by Canalys.
Apple set the standard in the "pad" market, said to the analyst, mainly at the expense of notebook and netbook shipments, as pads (or tablets, as they are more commonly known) competed for a share of consumer IT spend.
During the first quarter of the year, pad shipments reached 6.4m units globally.
Apple accounted for 74 per cent of these shipments, but Canalys is predicting a turn in the tide as products from Acer, Asus, LG and RIM start to appear in the market.
However, while Apple’s fortunes continue to be lifted by the iPad, other vendors in the consumer netbook and notebook market, such as Acer and Asus, were left struggling.
The analyst claimed overstocked retail channels and unsteady consumer confidence in major European countries and the US put a dampener on the potential for notebook market growth during 2011, and the natural disaster in Japan led to an eight per cent slowdown in the region.
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan also contributed to supply chain disruption which was reflected in many IT vendors’ quarterly reports. The consequences of this will continue to be felt in the second half of the year, said Canalys.
Tim Coulling, analyst at Canalys, said: “Taking into consideration the iPad’s halo effect on the company’s other products, Apple has grown considerably in most markets worldwide. As the iPad 2 and its competitors continue to roll out, we expect pad sales to propel PC market growth for the rest of the year.”
The findings of a recent consumer survey by Canalys revealed that current pad usage resembles that of a PC, rather than a media player or e-book reader.
After web browsing, both pad owners and non-owners in Western Europe, linked pad usage to e-mail/messaging and social networking. Among pad owners, all three categories rated much higher than e-book reading and video watching.
Non-owners, however, expected e-mail/messaging, e-book reading and video watching to top the list after web browsing.
At least 10 per cent of Western European pad owners surveyed by Canalys claimed to use more than 24 different application categories, spread across communications, entertainment, leisure/lifestyle and financial/business.
Educational apps were the only exception, only used by about eight per cent of pad owners. iPad owners used a significantly wider range of categories than other pad users.
The most popular apps among non-iPad owners tended to be relatively functional ones, such as e-mail, social networking, news and banking. While iPad owners also used these apps, they reported a much higher use of general web browsing and video consumption.
Feedback from potential pad owners shows how pad marketing campaigns, some of which refer to the devices as media tablets, have influenced their perceptions.
In reality, pads have a wide range of uses. For example, while browsing does include finding and consuming content, it also includes many other activities.
"This broad usage pattern reinforces the pad’s role as a general-purpose computing device, and much more than just a consumption device," added Coulling.
"The pad represents a real threat to PC and consumer electronics vendors, as it is capable of replacing devices in a range of other categories."
Canalys attributes differences between iPad and non-iPad users to screen size, user experience and app inventory. While the iPad has a 10in screen, a large proportion of other pads have 7in screens.
There is evidence from video service providers, such as MobiTV, that the time consumers spend watching video on different devices is directly proportional to screen size.
Non-iPad users’ choice of e-book reading over video watching as the most valuable app by four times as many respondents supports this conclusion.
Adam Daum, chief analyst at Canalys, said: "Vendors should continue to promote content consumption as an important benefit of pads, especially as ownership spreads to older consumers, while highlighting other uses of the device and preloading advanced browsers and localised messaging and social networking apps. Pad app stores also need to offer a broader inventory of both apps and content designed to take full advantage of a pad’s size and functionality.
"Beyond a one-stop sales opportunity, content and apps provide vendors with the chance to drive new revenue streams. Apple’s ecosystem suggests that pad owners will generate substantially higher average revenue from app and content sales than smart phone users. Through a combination of appropriate device marketing and app store strategy, device vendors can use apps and content to build customer loyalty."
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