What’s Next for 2011: Tablets

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to put together a few posts that look into the crystal ball and make some predictions (i.e. wild guesses) about some trends and developments we may see in affect online marketing in 2011.  Today I wanted to kick things off with a pretty safe bet – the continued rise of tablet devices.

First off, a few numbers.  Forrester Research forecasts steady and escalating growth of tablet usage in the US through 2011 and continuing through 2015.  Their forecast takes the numbers from 10.3 million tablet users in 2010 to 26 million by the end of 2011.  Looking further ahead, the number jumps to over 50 million in 2012 and hits 82 million by 2015.

The big consumer electronics companies certainly seem to believe the growth numbers, as Motorola, Samsung, Toshiba, Vizio and others unveiled their new tablet products at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  Add in the upcoming release of an updated iPad from Apple and you have a market that is ready to take the next step in its evolution.

Tablet devices have been hyped before (remember the Apple Newton?) but they finally grabbed mainstream consumer attention in 2010 with the launch of the iPad.  With huge numbers of consumers already used to accessing the web on their smart phones, the transition to a larger tablet mobile device was no longer such a big leap.  While the iPad jumped in and made the initial market, people will begin having more and more devices to choose from in 2011.

If you weren’t one of the early 2010 adopters of a tablet device, it may be time to take the plunge.  As an iPad convert, I’m already sold on the huge upside for these devices.  It doesn’t matter if you if you think of them as iPhones on steroids or stripped down laptops, they fill a niche between the smart phone and laptop.  With the iPad (and likely many of the new tablet devices) you get the mobile capabilities of the smart phone with more fully functional web access and other software capabilities that you would expect from a laptop.  It definitely doesn’t replace the core purpose of a smart phone (making phone calls), but actually can pretty much take the place of a laptop for many people.

Another area that I haven’t heard many people talk about is that a tablet may actually be the perfect tool for currently reluctant or even non-web users to get online.  In particular, I’m thinking about some older Baby Boomers and retirees who may have never become totally comfortable using a computer (my parents are great examples).  For them, a tablet device could provide an incredibly user-friendly way to jump online regularly.  One of the big benefits of these touch screen devices is that it takes literally no time to become familiar with how they work.

As an online marketer, becoming familiar with tablet devices is going to become more and more important in the years ahead.  As more and more internet users get online through these devices, the most effective online advertisers will adapt to take advantage of the tablet format and its mobile capabilities.

It seems like for the past five years we have heard that “this is the year” that mobile marketing will explode.  Certainly the growth of mobile advertising has been incredible over the past year, with Google’s AdMob ad network reportedly processing approximately 2 billion ad requests per day (this number having quadrupled over the last year).  The increase in tablet usage is likely to be another big step in this marketing evolution, as the devices’ mobile capabilities combined with a larger screen allow marketers to create even more immersive and targeted advertising programs .

So, one recommendation for 2011 is to go out and get yourself a tablet.  If you want to be able to take advantage of these new technologies in your marketing programs you need to begin to understand how the devices work and how consumers will be using them in the future.

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