There are no official numbers available yet, but comScore suggests that sales of the Apple iPad were brisk this holiday season. From a recent comScore report (via eWeek): “Computer Hardware ranks as the top growing category for the holiday season to date with a 25-percent increase versus last year. Purchases of handheld devices (such as Apple iPads and e-readers) and laptop computers drove much of the growth.”
However, if the holiday season belonged to Apple this year, 2011 is about to kick off a much larger tablet frenzy at the annual Consumer Electronics Show next week. Several major CE companies are planning their own tablet launches, not to mention a raft of smaller players all anxious to ride the tablet wave. LAPTOP’s Mark Spoonauer even joked on Twitter: “So who’s not launching a tablet at #CES? Place bets now!”
Tablets present a new dilemma for publishers. On the one hand, consumers expect high content availability because these devices tap into the Internet and are inherently portable. On the other hand, consumers also have higher expectations for content presentation because tablet displays measure significantly larger than smartphones and add in touch-screen capabilities not available on most laptops. It’s a double whammy for publishers: make your content available everywhere, but also optimize it for the best tablet experience.
So far, many publishers are struggling. Tablets should be the perfect platform for online shopping, but even retail sites that don’t rely on Flash have barely begun to take advantage of tablet touch-screens and high-resolution displays. Meanwhile, digital magazines are not thriving the way many publishers had hoped when the iPad launched. Instead, digital circulation has dropped across all magazines reporting digital single-issue sales. Games are doing well, even with higher app prices compared to smartphone versions, but even there, there is a huge amount of untapped potential for the platform.
It certainly looks like 2011 will be a year of explosive tablet growth. Are publishers ready? Or is producing content for tablets still a dark art that must be divined? If so, whoever has early success will have an opportunity to grab major mind share among tablet-toting consumers. The tablet audience is not just a techie population either. The tablet craze is rapidly becoming a pop culture phenomenon.