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Must-Have New Gadget for Mainstream Consumers


Mobile network service providers in developed nations who plan to grow their smartphone subscriber base should invest the time and effort to better understand the customer segments in their markets -- and do it soon, as media tablets and ereaders start to compete for consumer attention and available cash.

Smartphone adoption requires of a recurring monthly data service fee in order to use the device. In contrast, media tablets and ereaders can function with only a Wi-Fi connection. Granted, each device serves a different main purpose, but consumers with limited income may conclude that they must choose one device over the other.

Focusing on the Value Proposition

The spectrum of possibilities for consumer electronic (CE) devices that power our digital lives have undergone disruptive changes over the past several years. Now, more than ever, people have a plethora of entertainment options.

Smartphones have evolved from basic text-based communication tools to multimedia hubs. Ereaders and media tablets have grown from novelties to devices that can transform our digital media consumption experience.

HD televisions, game consoles and streaming media players have also gained internet connectivity, and with it, access to new worlds of digital content from a variety of new sources -- and at very competitive prices.

"As these device categories evolve and new ones come into being, consumers will continue to expect digital content to be available on all screens, at all times, in all locations," said Paul Verna, senior analyst at eMarketer.

In the U.S. market over the next two years, eMarketer expects more than 26 million mobile phone users to turn to smartphones -- potentially putting these devices into the hands of more than half of all U.S. mobile users by 2014.

Once again, that upside forecast assumes that mainstream consumers agree to the whole smartphone value proposition -- including the additional (and sometimes unpredictable) mobile network service expense.

The Quest for Mainstream Consumer Attention

Tablet penetration will increase more quickly in the U.S., from a user base of nearly 55 million by the end of 2012 to almost 90 million in the next two years.

By 2014, more than one in three U.S. internet users will have a tablet device.

Ereaders, connected game consoles, internet-enabled smart TVs and other connected gadgets have also become part of a society that demands instant and constant access to digital media entertainment.

"Without movies, TV shows, games, photos, books, magazines, newspapers, video clips and music, few would care to own a tablet, a touchscreen smartphone, a connected console or an internet-enabled TV," said Verna.

As more mainstream consumers gravitate toward digital media consumption, and as content owners and device manufacturers continue to find ways to meet the demand for it, more new and engaging content choices will become available in the digital domain.

The question remains, however, which consumer electronics device is viewed as the must-have product and which ones are likely considered to be optional purchases? The answers change once the available market opportunities move beyond the early-adopter segment.

If you're attending South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi), as a presenter or exhibitor, then do share details of your new product or service (see my "like to review" list for details).

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