How media tablets will enable the next revolution
From a mobile network service provider's point of view, the Apple iPad could become a disruptive device that threatens their legacy business model.
Moreover, the network operators were complicit in driving this trend -- they helped shape mainstream consumer perception that 3G/4G data plans are of questionable value.
Frankly, changing that perception is a daunting task. Why, you ask? Merely offering a shared data service plan is a pricing tactic, it's not the basis for a substantive and meaningful marketing strategy.
Clearly, most mobile network service providers are not prepared to face the apparent market realities. The early-adopters of 3G/4G data services could provide the key forward-looking signal to how and where the market upside eventually stalls.
eMarketer now predicts the number of Apple iPad users in America will rise by over 90 percent this year to 53.2 million, as current users replace older models and new adopters buy their first iPad.
This year, the iPad will be in the hands of more than three-quarters of all American tablet users. Now, just imagine there was an awesome over-the-top VoIP application for iPad that's as successful as WhatsApp for smartphones. It could quickly destabilize the voice revenue status-quo.
But wait, is there some relief on the horizon for mobile network operators? Can this revolution be postponed? The level of iPad adoption growth is down significantly from last year's 143.9 percent growth, and could continue to decline.
eMarketer forecasts that by 2015, the number of iPad users will rise by just under 12 percent. Regardless, by then, more than one-third of all U.S. internet users will have a media tablet.
Compared to iPads, overall tablet penetration is rising more quickly and will reach 29.1 percent of internet users by the end of this year, but growth will still fall off to 11.9 percent by 2015.
Broken down by age, the fastest growth among tablet users as a whole will come in the under-12 and 65-and-older age groups, which have relatively low penetration compared with other groups.
Those segments of the population most likely to use a tablet will remain between the ages of 25 and 44 -- among whom around one-third of the total population will use a tablet in 2012.
eMarketer estimates more than half of tablet users this year to be men (54 percent), but by the end of the forecast period the gender split is expected to be even. Asians, at 26.2 percent penetration in 2012, are the most likely racial or ethnic group to use a media tablet -- followed by Hispanics, at 24 percent.
This compares with 21.4 percent of whites and 21.5 percent of blacks.
The ongoing media tablet adoption trend is the one to watch closely.