People around the world snapped up 56 million tablets last year -- and it looks like that is just the start of a shift in mobile technology purchases. The tablet trend is just getting warmed up, according to a new report from Forrester Research that predicts 375 million tablets will be sold in 2016. This would place the annual growth rate close to 50% a year and mean that (if no tablets break in the next four years) there will be 760 million tablets in use across the globe.
As more professions, especially mobile ones, incorporate tablets into everyday tasks, it looks like tablets could replace some of the workforce demand of PCs. Just yesterday I was walking in downtown San Francisco and saw at least a dozen people using tablets as a part of their job. From marketing and sales people pitching products to clients at coffee shops, to utilities workers using tablets to record meters and even construction Forman looking at building plans. The tablet conversion is happening fast. The Apple iPad, which is the brand to beat in the tablet market, is expected to remain the “clear leader” in the field according to Forrester researcher Frank Gillett.
And since nearly three-quarters of small businesses are planning on buying tablets for their company next year, according to the National Purchase Diary of North America, this is a great consumer base for Apple to focus on.
For businesses with fewer than 50 employees, the intent to purchase a tablet was 54%. That percentage increased until it reached a staggering 89% of companies between 501 and 999 employees planning to buy those shiny flat computer devices. Of all the businesses considering a tablet, 73% thinking of going the route of the iPad.
“Businesses of all sizes appear to be determined to capitalize on the tablet phenomenon,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, said in a statement Thursday. “The iPad, just as it is in the consumer market, is synonymous for ‘Tablet’ in the business market, leaving Apple poised to take advantage of the increased spending intentions of these SMBs. NPD’s research shows that iPad purchase preference is higher among larger firms than smaller ones, which is an important indicator that Apple is gaining traction far outside its typical consumer space.”
And Apple is using its name recognition and focus on enterprise integration to keep its edge over the dozens of smaller competitors. Gillett even estimates that Android will see a net decline in its installed base of tablets by 2015, with Microsoft gaining ground at that point in time.
Forrester believes that Google’s network of Android device makers will struggle as Apple grabs companies that are willing to purchase in the premium-priced range and the diversity in the Android catalog will really become more of a fragmentation situation that hurts more than it helps.
Although while tablets have not yet been a logical alternative to PCs for most office jobs, Forrester predicts that a new class of consumer electronics might appear to fill that gap: “frames” (something like a desktop dock), will act as a middle ground to help translate more PC users into tablet uses. Essentially, this would mean that you could have the mobility and touch screen of a tablet and then place it in a dock that would charge it, connect it to a mouse and keyboard and possibly even have a hard-drive or larger screen that it connects to.
“Frames will become a new form of stationary PC, rising in volume even as laptop growth decays, redefining the desktop PC market as the stationary PC market,” Gillett explained.