Study: Tablet ownership will double by 2012; seen as alternative to TV

Tablet computing is not just a fad but definitely a rapidly growing trend among consumers, according to a new study about the proliferation of personal tablets and smartphones in North America.

Tablet computing is not just a fad but definitely a rapidly growing trend among consumers, according to a new study about the proliferation of personal tablets and smartphones in North America.

Dubbed as "Digital Home 3—The Democratization of Technology," which surveyed residents in 5,000 homes (4,000 U.S., 1,000 Canadian), here's a snapshot of the highlights found in the study published by the USC Marshall Institute for Communication Technology Management:

  • Tablet ownership in North American households is projected to increase from 8 percent in 2011 to 27 percent in 2012. The biggest growth in tablet users will be among 13-44 year olds.
  • The profile of current tablet users is revealing: 70 percent are between the ages of 18 and 44. They are slightly more likely to be male than female, and they largely live in high-income households. Members of ethnic groups, including African Americans, Latinos and Asians, are nearly twice as likely to buy a tablet in the next year as Caucasians.
  • Tablet users consume twice as much media as the mainstream, and they increasingly want to control what they watch by using the device in the future as an alternative to traditional television.
  • Smartphone ownership will increase from 29 percent in 2011 to 40 percent in 2012.
  • The highest penetration of smartphones will be in the Latino and Asian markets.

Some of the results aren't too shocking. It's pretty obvious that newer technology tends to get picked up by younger demographics more quickly, and of course tablet users are going to be more interested in consuming media. Just look how many thousands and thousands of apps there are in the Android Market and iTunes App Store. Finally, tablets aren't that cheap yet and aren't considered a necessary tech product like a laptop would be, so they would have to be picked up by consumers with more of a disposable income.

Yet, the prediction that tablet ownership is expected to double or triple within a year and the idea that tablets would replace traditional television are more striking. With the availability of Netflix, Hulu Plus and other TV programming apps available (not to mention just using the browser if the tablet in question supports Flash), it is feasible to imagine that many users would just turn to a tablet for watching their favorite shows. Those apps depend on at least a Wi-Fi connection, but it's no surprise that cable companies just aren't doing it for most consumers anymore.

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