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The Evolving Role of Media Tablets in a Post-PC Era

More people will purchase their first media tablet, or a similar device, this coming holiday season. IDC Canada shared some insightful findings from their latest market study of new device owners. Today, Canadian consumers have many alternatives to choose from when making a media tablet purchase decision.

This week, the launch of the Amazon "Kindle Fire" and the Barnes & Noble "Nook Tablet" will likely establish yet another segment within this device category for consumers to explore and consider.

IDC now tracks 50 different media tablet models in Canada alone, compared to just a handful at this time last year. The plethora of devices has made it challenging for the average person to evaluate and select the device most suitable for their needs.

Yet, in some ways, the market has not changed much at all. For the time being, Apple remains the market leader. But the market is about to evolve -- with a continuous change in the mix of portable device vendors, a growing apps ecosystem and a multitude of available multimedia content.

In their recently published report, IDC looks at potential buyer's thoughts, perceptions, and intentions with respect to media tablets in Canada. Key takeaways from this report include:
  •  Purchase Location Matters: Specialty retail stores will remain top of mind when consumers purchase a media tablet. However, mobile network service providers are expected to increase their relevance and share of the channel.
  • Pricing Pressure on the Horizon: With the consumers' ideal price range currently well under $500, vendors that have not already adjusted their price points will need to do so soon in order to compete for market share.
  • Content Matters: Hardware is not the differentiating factor moving forward. Instead, the back-end ecosystem, accompanying content/apps, and user experience are more likely to dictate who will ultimately win in this market.
  • Consumers Are Not Replacing PCs...Yet: Some of the very features that make media tablets so attractive, are the same features that may prevent them from cannibalizing the PC market.
"In the media tablet market, there is Apple, and then there is everyone else. These other competitors will be left to duke it out, driving down prices," said Krista Napier, senior analyst, Competitive Intelligence & Emerging Technology at IDC Canada. "To maintain profitable businesses, all competitors in this space will need to look beyond the hardware, and consider the ecosystem, content, and experiences behind the devices, which will ultimately drive success."

IDC Canada conducted the consumer survey in September 2011 with 1,005 respondents, to better understand their perceptions, preferences, and intentions with respect to media tablets. This study is the second report in a two-part series that looks at media tablet usage in Canada.

As the holiday season approaches, I'm thinking that the post-PC era marketplace actually incorporates several potential options, depending upon the user's primary application needs. It includes instant-on media tablets, enhanced eReaders and Chromebooks. That said, there's still the wildcard -- the emergence of a quick-start, lower-cost, and purpose-built Ultrabook PC segment that could further fragment the market.

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