Why Tablets Will Become Our Primary Computing Device

Tablets aren’t the most powerful computing gadgets. But they are the most convenient.

They’re bigger than the tiny screen of a smartphone, even the big ones sporting nearly 5-inch screens.

They have longer battery life and always-on capabilities better than any PC — and will continue to be better at that than any ultrathin/book/Air laptop. That makes them very handy for carrying around and using frequently, casually, and intermittently even where there isn’t a flat surface or a chair on which to use a laptop. 

And tablets are very good for information consumption, an activity that many of us do a lot of. Content creation apps are appearing on tablets. They’ll get a lot better as developers get used to building for touch-first interfaces, taking advantage of voice input, and adding motion gestures.

They’re even better for sharing and working in groups. There’s no barrier of a vertical screen, no distracting keyboard clatter, and it just feels natural to pass over a tablet, like a piece of paper, compared to spinning around a laptop.

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The Tablet-TV Connection

Analysts and press have paid much attention to the cannibalistic relationship of tablets and PCs — but there’s another screen whose relationship to the TV is worth considering. My colleague Annie Corbett and I published a new report today on the relationship between tablets and TVs. A few key takeaways from the report:

  • Tablets complement TV in the living room. Tablets are displacing PCs and smartphones as the “couch computer” of choice: 85% of US tablet owners use their tablets while watching TV, and according to Nielsen, 30% of total tablet time is spent while watching TV. The tablet’s complementary nature to the living room TV gives a raison d’etre to “second screen” apps like Miso, GetGlue, and Viggle that engage consumers in conversation and content related to what’s on the big screen.
  • Tablets also turn TV into a “dumb” device. A surprisingly high percentage of tablet owners — 18% — say they connect their tablets to their TVs via HDMI or VGA cables (the second- and third-gen iPad can do this, as can many Android tablets, but the Amazon Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets cannot). As much as Samsung and others have promoted “Smart TVs,” the reality is that consumers with tablets think their tablets are even smarter, and at least some of the time prefer to watch the content from their small device on the big screen.
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