Analysts: Tablets and E-Readers Will Thrive in 2011 and Beyond

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With PC sales falling, the future looks very bright indeed for alternatives such as tablets and e-readers. Although perspectives and specific conclusions varied considerably, that’s the overall upshot of a barrage of reports recently issued by leading analyst firms ranging from Gartner and In-Stat to Piper-Jaffray.

“Media tablets are fast finding favor with PC buyers who are attracted to their more dedicated entertainment-driven features and their instant-on capability,” according to a report released by Gartner this week.

Gartner analysts more than alluded to the rising popularity of tablets in lowering forecasts this week from 18.3% to 15.9% for desktop PC growth between 2010 and 2011.

Tablets will both ‘complement and substitute for’ PCs

iPads and other tablets will be increasingly embraced “as complements if not substitutes for PCs where voice and light data consumption are required,” said Raphael Vasquez, a Gartner analyst, in a statement.

George Shiffler, research director at this same market-research firm, concurred, contending that “leading vendors will be challenged to keep PCs from losing the device ‘limelight’ to more innovative products that offer better dedicated compute capabilities.”

The analysts also foresaw that media tablets will become more “PC-like” in future years, displacing large numbers of PC shipments, particularly in the mini-notebook category.

Black Friday sales busier for iPads than Macs

Meanwhile, in a survey of Black Friday retail sales, a team of analysts at Piper Jaffray took note of strong Apple iPad sales.

While not making any specific prognostications for 2011, the financial analysts observed that sales of iPads were brisker (at 8.8 per hour, per store) than for Macs (at 8.2 per hour, per store) this year among visitors to 100 Apple retail stores and 50 Apple reseller shops.

In earlier Black Friday studies by Piper-Jaffray, conducted before Apple’s release of the iPad, Macs sold at the higher “per hour, per hour” rates of 8.3 in 2009 and 13.0 in 2008, respectively, according to an account in Fortune.

E-reader sales to triple by 2014

In-Stat Research has taken a new look at the future of e-readers, predicting that shipments from key suppliers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Sony will rise from 12 million units by the close of this year to 35 million units in 2014.

“The e-reader creates new opportunities for microprocessor and memory vendors,” pointed out Stephanie Ethier, senior analyst at In-Stat, in a statement. Specifically, In-Stat projected that these opportunities will exceed $1 billion by 2011.

GfK MRI: E-reader ownership has already tripled

Another analyst group, GfK MRI, reported this week that ownership of e-readers among adults in the US has tripled over the past 18 months or so, from 2.1 million in the March-to-October period of 2009 to 5.9 million today.

“While electronic tablets have created lots of buzz amid increased competition in the market, e-readers continue to be very popular devices,” contended Anne Marie Kelly, senior vice president at the analyst firm.

Currently, 55% of e-reader owners have household incomes above $100,000, according to the study. The vast majority of owners (74.9%) have read a book on their device over the last six months, as opposed to 15.3% for magazines and 17.6% for newspapers.

Can tablets and e-readers co-exist?

Yet not everyone thinks that tablets can continue on such an upward curve without eating into sales of e-readers and PCs alike.

In a report issued last month, Gartner predicted that because of their all-in-one nature, tablets “will result in the cannibalization of other consumer electronics devices such as e-readers, gaming devices, and media players.”

At that time, Gartner forecast worldwide unit sales of 19.5 million tablets in 2010, 54.8 million in 2011, and 208 million in 2014.




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