Thursday, January 26, 2012

Out From the Digital Stone Age: Tablet PCs Emerge Along with a Lesson

Perhaps one of the hardest tasks to man-up – or woman-up to in my case, whether in PR circles or just around the evening dinner table, is to admit when you’re wrong. Of course, this is mammoth amounts of scholarly work written on why that is the case, but I’ll spare you the details, provide the obligatory link to a book about “cognitive dissonance,” and get to the point of this blog post.

Recently I’ve blogged about two issues: the trouble with statistics, that approximately 47 percent of people like to make them up and the remaining 53 percent fail to interpret them correctly, (yes, that adds up to 100) and that tablet PCs and e-readers, while no doubt part of the mobile digital mix, are not likely to explode in popularity — at least until they are more completely untethered from Wifi-only Internet access.

Well, at least when it comes to the tablet computer portion of the above paragraph….(here goes) I may have been wrong. That wasn’t too hard.

An article in the technology section of yesterday reported that adult tablet ownership roughly doubled during the holiday season jumping from 10 percent in mid December to 19 percent ownership in early January, only a few weeks later, and women were the biggest new converts. The Pew research behind the article attributed the surge to continuing price falls (some tablets are selling for as little as $99) and the aggressive marketing efforts of competitors like the Kindle Fire and Barns and Noble’s Nook as they continue nudging their way into what’s predominantly been an iPad 1 and iPad 2 domain.

What’s more, investment bank Morgan Keegan reduced its estimate of iPad shipments in December from 16 million to 13 million, a drop of 19 percent, while estimating that the Kindle Fire sold between 4 million and 5 million units, according to the article. An industry analyst cutting back on its predicted iPad sales is further evidence that the tablet market might be getting more complex –even if the Wifi umbilical cord hasn’t been fully cut.

While a doubling of anything is relatively easy when you start with low figures, (having $2 in your wallet when you started with $1 is a 100 percent increase) it’s quite possible this article and the Pew research are the first indications that tablet computers are finally coming into their own. Think about it, tablets were “born” right around and just after the momentary Netbook craze from roughly 2007, Kindle’s launch year, and 2010, the iPad 1 début. As “second borns” you’d think they’d be more refined products, flying off shelves. Well, it may have taken some warm up time, but apparently, they’re beginning to do just that.

With that coveted laptop-sized screen, who knows, 2012 could really be the “year of the tablet” never mind the smartphone. As communication professionals, it might be time to start thinking and re-thinking both for ourselves and for our clients ways in which tablet PCs can better disseminate a marketing message or push a product.

We already know they’re great for downloading books, have a knack for beating the statistical odds, and have proven this PR professional mistaken. (At least for the moment)

Now let’s see what else they can do.

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