GfK NOP research shows that consumers familiar with the iPhone are much more interested in tablet PCs than the average UK consumer and, what’s more, they know exactly what they would use it for.
One of the hot topics at this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) was tablet PCs. Microsoft showed off Windows 7 (multi-touch version) on an HP tablet and, despite Apple’s non-attendance, there was much hype around a potential ‘iPad’ (iSlate, iTablet?). Many believe that the hype will become a reality on 27 January when Apple hosts an event entitled ‘Come see our latest creation’.
What interests me most about tablet PCs is who would buy one and what they would do with it. Recent research*conducted by GfK NOP shows that interest levels in ‘tablet PCs’ for the average UK internet user are at moderate levels with 45% being somewhat or extremely interested. That may sound high, but with all research like this, sales never match intent. However, the most striking finding from this research is that levels of interest are significantly higher among iPhone users – at 75%.
Those Interested in Tablet PCs
Why such a big difference? Well, iPhone users will be familiar with features such as multi-touch screens, integrated multimedia services and, of course, the App Store. This, in itself, begins to reveal what consumers will use a tablet PC for. In a way it is obvious for an iPhone user that an iPad (let’s go with that name for now) would be a larger, more powerful iPhone, which would be a natural choice for web browsing and multimedia as well as being extremely customisable with apps. The research supports this view because of those interested in tablet PCs, 58% of iPhone users (41% UK average) said they would use it for an ‘enhanced’ web browsing experience and 75% of iPhone users (41% UK average) said they would use it as a portable multimedia player, two of the top answers.
However, web browsing and multimedia are standard features for PC, laptop or even netbook users, so will the introduction of the tablet PC enable new and different uses? Reading between the lines, Apple’s invite (pictured below), with the splashes of paint used in the imagery, might suggest that a future iPad will be a more effective platform for creative tasks. Over half of iPhone users interested in tablet PCs (51%) said they would use it for ‘mainly creative tasks like editing photos or drawing images’ compared to just 27% as a UK average. Although tasks like these are becoming more mainstream, the tablet PC, especially an Apple one, could accelerate that trend.
Potential effect of tablet PCs
For some time now, people have been calling for Apple to release a netbook, mainly because many wanted a portable Apple experience with web browsing and multimedia capabilities. In a way the iPhone has filled this void but a future iPad could take the experience one step further and, as we’ve seen, iPhone users agree. The obvious difference is that a netbook and a tablet PC will sit at different ends of the affordability scale. Apple’s products are always at the premium end of the market and are about delivering a simple and high performance user experience. A tablet PC has the potential to meet all of those criteria without devaluing their product pricing or risking customer satisfaction as they may have done with a netbook. With this is mind, I can now see why they resisted netbooks and waited for tablet PCs despite the prolific sales netbooks received over the past few years.
Whether tablet PCs will have an effect on netbook sales is hard to tell, especially as they will (almost definitely) be at least twice the price of a netbook. One risk Apple and other PC manufacturers might face is the cannibalisation of home laptop sales. Of those interested in tablet PCs, 60% of iPhone users (48% UK average) said they would use it to replace all the tasks of their home PC or laptop. This is not as unbelievable as it first sounds given that the majority of home internet users (58%) only use their PC for basic tasks like browsing the internet.**
It’s no wonder so many people are excited about the potential of a future iPad being announced later this week. Apple have an incredible knack at educating consumers about their new products before anyone has even seen what they look like. They did the same with the iPhone; Apple let the market speculate about what it would look like and what it would do before it was even announced. The success of the iPhone has sparked consumer interest in the iPad and the same seems to be happening again. For iPhone users in particular an iPad is simply a complimentary and natural evolution of the iPhone.
So, will the tablet become as common an item on the coffee table as a magazine or a book?… We’ll have to wait and see! Roll on 27 January!
NOTES ON THE RESEARCH
*1000 online interviews were conducted by GfK NOP among a UK representative sample of internet users.
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