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Thanks to Apple, we know that there's a market for tablet computing devices. But what we still don't know is how the growth of tablet devices will impact the usage of other computing devices.

Some, not surprisingly, believe that the tablet is a killer. A popular meme on this front: the iPad is killing netbooks. But is that really the case?

According to a survey conducted by Nielsen, many tablet owners in the U.S. are using their desktops, laptops and netbooks less frequently, but relatively few have ditched those devices entirely.

For instance, 32% of tablet owners report using their computers less frequently, but only 3% have tossed their desktops. Interestingly, not only are 56% of tablet owners using their desktops at the same clip, 9% say they're using them more frequently since purchasing a tablet.

Across the board, a similar pattern is seen: tablet ownership is resulting in less frequent use of other devices for a meaningful minority of tablet owners, but the majority of tablet owners are using their other devices just as much if not more.

In some cases, Nielsen sees usage of non-tablet devices increasing substantially. When it comes to portable gaming consoles, for example, 22% of tablet owners indicate they're using their consoles less, but a sizable 26% say that they're using their consoles more.

So what gives? Is the tablet killing off other devices, or not? In answering this, it appears that there's good news for publishers, digital marketers and all companies with a digital presence: the pie appears to be expanding.

Sure, some tablet owners are using other devices less, but in most cases the number using other devices at the same clip or even more exceeds the 'less' camp. The most sensible explanation is that tablet use is for the most part increasing the amount of time their owners spend using digital devices.

With the greatest number of respondents (31%) saying that they're attracted most to the tablet because it's "easy to carry/take with you", this makes logical sense, as many are obviously using tablets in situations when they otherwise wouldn't be connected at all.

If the trends Nielsen sees continue, it will be just one more reason to recognize that zero sum games often aren't zero sum games. Developing a multi-channel digital strategy that recognizes the opportunities created by a world in which consumers are expanding their connected activity through multiple devices is thus crucial.

Patricio Robles

Published 6 May, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2392 more posts from this author

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Heidi Cohen

I love your headline and agree that tables are increasing content consumption although there is an upper bound to this, especially since Americans consume over 10 hours a day according to Ipsos.

A closer examination of The Nielsen Company research is needed. While tablets aren't netbook killers short term, they've caused roughly one in three people to reduce their use of desktops and laptops. Also, one in five people reduced their use of portable computing devices including netbooks, ereaders, portable media players, and portable gaming devices.

Bear in mind this data doesn't take into account that, as new devices, tablets continue to evolve and it's a good guess that some form of keyboard functionality is in the works.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

over 5 years ago

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DCCTV

I would also predict the rise of video as a communications method across Facebook. As you stated their real-time chat has always been somewhat slack, but through in voice comms (at free, or near free, at point of service) and a clear cut winner moves itself far and away ahead of the competition.

over 5 years ago

Yves Goulnik

Yves Goulnik, Digital strategy director at Strategik & Numerik | Indigenus

The title of the Nielsen report is "How We Use Tablets in the U.S."
Their first highlight is about shared useage of tablets within the household, by which they mean different people getting hold of it a different times.
Beyond individual use, the touch interface allows for much deeper engagement than simultaneous sharing of the interface amongst two (or more) people. This is something that hardly ever happens with laptops or even netbooks, where one person controls typically controls the keyboard. The same goes for smartphones, where physical size is a limiting factor, despite the touch screen.
Combined with mobility and connectivity, it's not surprising to see the pie expanding at least initially, when some households are just now getting their first laptop. But I don't doubt that cognitive shift from keyboard-mediated interaction to directly touching objects will have a significant impact on sales.
Unlike Heidi Cohen, I think what's coming is NUIs getting richer and more popular (touch, gesture, voice etc.) rather than retrofitting old ways to interact (e.g. keyboard functionality).

over 5 years ago

Dave Wieneke

Dave Wieneke, Director of Digital Strategy - ISITE Design at www.UsefulArts.us

Tablets represent a tidal shift in the PC market. While no one thinks they will eliminate the market, as they support some different use cases -- they have indeed cannibalized both PC and cell phone sales and expanded personal computing.

If you're the CEO of Acer or Nokia - tablets are a very big threat to your business. Here's why.

1. This is the first time in 30 years that any challenger has decreased the market share of the Windows/Intel PC. That's a big deal. Gartner and IDC show 5-6% decline.

2. Goldman Sachs projects 1 in 3 new PC sales to be replaced by a tablet sale.

3. This equally limits the future of the "mini-notebook", and the "non smart phone".

Our office machines will still be PC's running Linux, Windows or Mac. But that second machine, in the kitchen, family room or for the kids is increasingly a consumption focused tablet - running Android or iOS. That's a big change in just over a year.

over 5 years ago

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medical animation

from my point of view, both change of world and opportunity to the market are huge. either an angel or a devil.

about 5 years ago

Yves Goulnik

Yves Goulnik, Digital strategy director at Strategik & Numerik | Indigenus

Talking of kitchens and family rooms, here's an interesting development in the gourmet department : http://www.alessitab.eu/

about 5 years ago

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