Tablets gaining on laptop market

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 60 views 

The tablet computer is just two years old but is redrafting the rules for a burgeoning mobile society across the globe. City leaders in Fort Smith and Springdale and bankers and media correspondents say the portability of the tablet is making their jobs easier.

Tech marketing analysts say 90 million Americans, or 36% of all internet users, will have a tablet device by 2014, with Apple controlling the lion’s share of the tablet market.

This new dynamic is casting some concern over the traditional laptop market and with good cause, leaving Hewlett Packard, Dell and Acer rethinking strategy as they wait on the Microsoft 8 tablet coming this fall.

In the meantime, Apple reported selling 11.8 million iPads in its most recent quarter ending March 31, a 151% increase from the same quarter a year ago. Prior to 2012, Apple sold an estimated 68 million iPad tablets between April 2010 and the end of 2011.

The city of Springdale purchased about a dozen iPads earlier this year and Mayor Doug Sprouse says it is money well spent.

“The council members each have one and we have been able to greatly speed up the preparation time for meetings, while also saving on paper, printing and labor costs,” Sprouse said.

The council agenda and supporting documents are sent to a drop box on the iPad which allows the council members to easily access the data and then cross check maps with Google earth or other data found online.

“We are still learning about all the ways we can use the device to become more efficient in our jobs. The council has been very receptive to learning and using the new technology,” Sprouse said.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors recently approved a plan to abandon paper packets at board meetings in favor of a new electronic distribution system.

According to City Clerk Sherri Gard, annual costs for preparing paper packets run $13,125. Additionally, Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey’s department incurs $1,431 per year in personnel and fuel expenses associated with delivery of the documents for an overall total of $14,556 annually.

Under the new electronic distribution system, the city will issue the Apple iPad 3 to each elected official (at the $499 Wi-Fi only option) and “necessary administrative staff,” Gard said.

Paper packets will still be available through the July 3 board meeting as the city works to ensure “parallel adoption,” said City Administrator Ray Gosack.

Board members are allowed to opt out if they already own an iPad 3 or related device capable of accessing the PDF board packets from the city’s website.

While tablet use was initially dominated by males age 25 and up, the audience is rapidly changing from personal use in the first year to include more business application.

Photo journalist Marc Henning of Bella Vista, recently bought an iPad 3 to help consult with clients.

“Portability, ease-of-use and compatibility with my iPhone and iCloud account are my reasons for getting one,” Henning said.

Another perk is the new iPad also shoots video in full HD, which Henning says is of good quality. Henning talked with other journalists who routinely use the iPad to cover media events in lieu of a laptop computer before making his purchase.

New research from NPD Group confirms that the most common business uses of tablets are email/calendar management, note taking and presentations; with 77% reporting email as a common workplace use.

North Texas banker Karen Hart said she frequently uses her iPad over her laptop for work and personal recreation, especially when traveling. Hart is among a growing segment of female users that now account for about 47% of tablet users — most of them iPad.

Goldman Sachs declared last summer that the tablets were one of the most advancing forces in the computer electronics industry in the last 30 years. The investment banking titan predicted tablets would push computer manufacturers to reorganize their marking plans if they were to stay profitable.

With the rapid popularity of tablets, traditional laptop titan Hewlett Packard recently defended its business model with the Wall Street Journal. HP says its PC business is worth $40 billion, but also cited it needs to move faster into tablets than it has in the past. The company is hoping the Windows 8 tablet coming this fall will appeal to consumers.

Over the next two years HP plans to cut 27,000 jobs as it restructures its business.

Analysts say there is a lot hinging on the success of the Windows 8 tablet, because HP, Dell and Acer are in dire need of a product that can compete with iPad.

Others say the laptop market is far from dead. An ongoing study by ABI Research indicates one in three respondents plan to purchase a laptop by this summer. Also, 16% of those responding to the company’s Technology Barometer survey said they plan to buy a media tablet.

The biannual survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers indicates more families have held on to home PCs longer and has created some pent-up demand for both laptops and tablets.

Best Buy and Walmart frequently tout the popularity of tablets among their customers. The growing appeal of Apple’s expanding product line prompted Walmart to put Apple mini-stores in 25 Walmart locations, including the Walmart Supercenter at Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers.

Duncan MacNaughton, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S, said last week that Apple products have been a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster electronic segment suffering from a lack of new product innovation.