We’ve gotten greedy. We — the media, the industry watchers, the tech enthusiasts — have an insatiable hunger for novelty. The original iPad wowed us because it introduced an entirely new form factor. iPad 2 slimmed down and got a snappy cover. The new iPad shares nearly nothing with the iPad 2 hardware, according to Apple executives I spoke with. Its retina display has 1 million more pixels than a large-screen HDTV. The new A5X chip has, according to Apple, four times the processing power of Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip. Compared with iPad 2, it has a nicer camera, a video camera, dictation input, and 4G, while still squeezing out 10 hours of (Wi-Fi) battery life. It’s a wee bit thicker and an ounce heavier. And yet, in my conversations with numerous reporters over the past few days, the theme they kept bringing up was “incremental innovation”: Will the next iPad be innovative enough to maintain Apple’s momentum?
If the iPhone 4S is a case study, the answer for consumers is a resounding “yes.” The 4S, though not as dramatic an update as the technorati hoped for, has been the best-selling iPhone ever. The new iPad will fly off the shelves too: We expect tablets, led by the iPad, to reach 60.7 million US adults by the end of the year, or 19% of the US population. The engineering feats accomplished in the new iPad would have been inconceivable in the early days of personal computing, when colored pixels were in themselves a revelation. We the tech watchers may be jaded, but Apple’s consumers still appreciate the mesmerizing beauty of an ever-nicer screen.
Apple’s anticipated iPad update comes as the tablet market is white-hot. In a new report published for Forrester clients today, we’ve revised our US consumer tablet forecast upward: We now expect 112.5 million US adults to own a tablet in 2016, which will equal 34.3% of US adults. In Europe, the numbers are similarly impressive, with an expected 105.7 million tablet users, or 30.4% of consumers 16 and older, in the EU-7 by 2016. With an assumed replacement rate of two years, cumulative unit sales will be much higher: In the US, we forecast that consumers will buy 292.5 million tablets from 2010 to 2016.
Tablets are a global phenomenon—we estimate that US consumers constitute only 43% of Apple’s 55 million iPads sold through the end of its last fiscal quarter, with the rest going to consumers and enterprises in the rest of the 90 countries where the iPad is now sold. Tablets are also a worker phenomenon: Although the No. 1 place where consumers use tablets is in the living room, 37% of US tablet owners take them to work as well. In a recent Forrester survey of 9,912 technology end users at SMBs and enterprises in 17 countries, we found that workers in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and Mexico actually led demand for wanting to use a tablet for work—and being willing to share the cost of the device with their employers.