Tablets and e-readers set to be must-have devices – survey

8 Mar 2011

Consumers are increasingly aware of tablet computers and e-readers and are prepared to buy these devices, particularly if prices fall, suggests a survey of 14,000 people in 16 markets, including China, Germany, the UK and the US.

Carried out by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the study found two-thirds (67pc) of all US consumers were familiar with tablets and e-readers in December 2010, up from 54pc in a similar survey by BCG in March 2010. The US findings mirrored those in most other markets. In China, 73pc were familiar with these devices – the highest of any of the markets in the survey. In the UK, the figure was 59pc – up 16pc, the biggest jump in awareness of any market.

Worldwide, intent to purchase remains strong: 69pc of consumers who are already familiar with tablets and e-readers are planning to purchase one of these devices in the next three years, down only slightly from 73pc in the March 2010 survey. In the US, 50pc of consumers familiar with these devices plan to buy a tablet or an e-reader in the next year, up 3 percentage points since March.

The survey also found that consumers are still willing to pay tablet prices similar to the amounts they were willing to pay in March, especially in Europe. Consumers in Italy, for example, are willing to spend up to US$330 for a tablet. In Germany, the upper limit is about US$260, and in the US, about US$200. BCG said that while these amounts are below the US$499 entry price of an iPad, they suggest where tablets could be selling in a year or so if prices fall in line with the price declines of other consumer-electronics products.

Spending on e-readers

For single-purpose e-readers, US consumers are willing to spend up to US$130, which is only slightly less than the US$139 entry-level Kindle from Amazon. The larger issue for single-purpose e-readers is whether they can compete successfully against the multipurpose tablets. In the global survey, 53pc of respondents said they would want to buy a tablet, while only 15pc said they wanted an e-reader. Globally, 84pc want to be able to read e-mail on these devices, while 85pc want to be able to browse online content, and 69pc want to view videos.

“This survey confirms that tablets and e-readers are set to rapidly become the next must-have device,” said Dominic Field, a BCG partner and US leader of the firm’s media practice. “The focus, therefore, will rapidly shift to key questions around who will win and how much value will be created or destroyed in the process.”

The survey also found that consumers are willing to pay about the same amount for digital content presented on tablets as they were in March 2010. US consumers are willing to spend US$5 to US$10 for a digital book, US$3 to US$6 for a monthly magazine subscription, and US$5 to US$10 for a monthly newspaper subscription. BCG said these price levels are sufficiently encouraging to give content owners confidence that their digital investments will pay dividends.

“The challenge – and opportunity – is to produce immersive, interactive content that engages consumers and provides a real revenue stream for publishers,” said John Rose, a senior partner at BCG and global leader of the firm’s media practice.

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