Tablet buyers aren't ditching their laptops, studies show

Many new tablets, including the new Kindle Fire HDX, are marketed as ways to create documents and other content for work-related tasks, instead of purely for home consumption of video and games.

Even with the focus on workplace productivity, a new survey shows that only 8.7 percent of tablet buyers want to use the tablet as a replacement for their laptops. The same survey by IDC found that 58.5 percent of respondents bought a tablet to use in addition to a laptop, and not as a replacement.

The online survey was conducted in April and included 299 U.S. consumers. All of them were 18 or older.

Generational differences

The results might have been different if the survey included younger tablet users, ages 17 and under, since that group has grown up with tablets since the first iPad went on sale in 2010, said Tom Mainelli, an IDC analyst and author of a report on the survey.

"The younger generation has different sentiments about phones and tablets and how useful they are," Mainelli said in an interview.

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Tom Mainelli

Still, he said the finding that only 8.7 percent found a tablet as a replacement for a laptop was a surprise. "When we ask that question again in a year, I'd expect you will see a growing percentage view a tablet at least as possibly replacing a laptop," Mainelli said.

"A huge percentage of people still see a lot of value in a laptop for one kind of app or service they use on it," he added. "Would they want to do their taxes on a tablet? They haven't quite made the leap to being comfortable with a mobile device like a tablet."

"But that [expanded tablet] usage is coming, and we see more people doing more things on tablets," Mainelli added. "Professionals still rely on laptops and a lot of them are just not really even thinking about the possibilities that the tablet offers and instead are concerned that a tablet doesn't run Flash or can only open one app at a time."

Mainelli said it's notable that Amazon announced two new Kindle Fire HDX tablets last week with an emphasis on business-class features such as a native VPN client and hardware and software encryption.

"Amazon is getting much more serious about making its tablets enterprise-ready," he said. The same can be said for iPads and many Android devices.

Mobile OS trends

IDC has predicted 190 million tablets will be shipped to retailers in 2013, of which about half run on the Android mobile operating system and half on iOS, with fractional amounts running Windows. Amazon runs on a custom version of Android and has dubbed its latest OS the Fire OS 3.0 Mojito.

In the IDC survey, 35 percent said they own an iOS tablet; 26.4 percent said they owned a tablet running standard Android; 10 percent said they owned a custom Android tablet like a Kindle Fire; 9.4 percent said they owned a Windows tablet and 0.7 percent owned a Windows RT tablet. More than 14 percent said they didn't know the OS on their tablet.

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The survey also asked tablet owners if they had a chance to buy a tablet again, would they buy one with the same OS. The iOS system owners were most likely to say yes (80.2 percent), followed closely by Windows tablet owners (78.9 percent); owners of standard Android systems were third (70 percent), and owners of custom Android devices were 68 percent.

Mainelli said the lower values for owners who would buy both kinds of Android again are likely a reflection of the many varieties of Android tablets on the market, some priced as low as $79 for a white box version and others from various vendors priced close to the iPad with Retina display at $499. Google's Nexus 10 16 GB tablet running pure Android sells for $399.

"People who own the higher-end Androids probably have a similar affinity for them as do iOS owners," he said. But Mainelli said he was somewhat surprised by the high affinity for Windows. "Those owning Windows have a strong inclination to buy one again, right below Apple," he noted.

Editor's Note: IDC is a sibling company to PCWorld, TechHive and Computerworld, which are all owned by IDG.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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