Europe outstrips US in demand for tablet devices

Tablets will be the fastest growing mobile device in history, according to Morgan Stanley.

2011 may be the year of the tablet, with adoption ramping faster than any previous mobile device, according to a new report from Morgan Stanley.

The report, published last week, aggregates data from more than 8,000 consumers in the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Japan in October 2010, together with 50 CIOs.

In the most bullish scenario, shipments of tablet devices could reach 100 million in 2012. The tablet market itself forms part of the larger mobile internet market, predicted to reach 10 billion mobile internet devices in use by the end of 2020, up from 2 billion today. Apple was, of course, the dominant player in 2010, shipping almost 15 million out of a total of 16 million units. However, competition is set to heat up in 2011 with the launch of Android 3.0 devices, the Blackberry Playbook, and Windows 7 tablets.

The report's authors were surprised to find that demand outside the US outstripped that from the US itself. The survey investigated ‘extreme interest in purchasing a tablet over the next 12 months' and found that demand in France stood at 15%, Germany at 18%, and 20% in the UK, compared to 11% in the US. Not surprisingly, China outstrips them all with 41%. Over time, while the uptake of tablets will have an impact on the demand for other devices such as PCs, e-readers and gaming handhelds, one-third of global prospective tablet buyers view the tablet as an additional device on top of those they already have.

Today, the primary use of tablets is to consume content through activities such as web browsing, social networking and watching video. However, the report finds that 20% of tablet owners use the device to create or edit files - a figure that is likely to increase over time.

Enterprise adoption could be more widespread than expected, with two-thirds of CIOs surveyed saying that they either expected to purchase tablets for some employees, or to allow employees' own tablets onto their networks within one year - up from 29% currently. Organisations are using tablets for a range of uses, including general productivity, sales, field service and support, management and healthcare, among others. The enterprise security and management features of iOS, the iPad's operating system, have enabled strong adoption in corporate environments. The report notes that a growing set of powerful third-party business applications, together with the ability to devise customised apps, is creating new powerful use cases within the enterprise.

Perhaps surprisingly, the report foresees that tablets used as digital document viewers will have a significant impact on the use of printers. Ninety percent of iPad users already believe they would print less with access to work documents on their devices.

It is probably too early to say what the most powerful use cases for tablet computing will be, but this level of adoption will create challenges for information professionals seeking to meet and manage user needs for content provision, and in the larger context for organisations who must deal with securing access and devices, and managing application compatibility and multiple operating systems.

Morgan Stanley's ‘Tablet Demand and Disruption: Mobile Users Come of Age' is available to download here

Image courtesy of Yagan Kiely via Flickr.