ABI Research: Tablets (read: the iPad) kicked netbooks in the face during Q2 2011

The bean counters at ABI Research have made quite a startling discovery. During the second quarter of this year tablet devices finally outsold those horribly slow, terribly built computers that Intel likes to call netbooks. More specifically: 13.6 million tablets shipped compared to just 7.3 million netbooks. In the previous quarter those numbers were 6.4 million tablets versus 8.4 million netbooks. So how many of those 13.6 million tablets were actually iPads? A little less than 70%, so 2 out of 3 basically. Who is actually buying tablets? You’d think it was the bleeding edge technophile crowd, but it’s actually people like your parents. Jeff Orr, Group Director of Mobile devices at ABI Research says:

“Media tablets are perceived to be easy to use, compared to the keyboard and mouse interface of a netbook computer. Those who have avoided PCs because they are difficult to use – think the Baby Boomer generation and older – see media tablets as an opportunity to re-engage with Internet access. Cost, however, is certainly not a reason driving tablet interest, as the average media tablet costs approximately $600 and the average netbook is only about half of that.”

Was Q2 2011 a fluke? Orr doesn’t think so, later saying: “This is a trend that we do not expect will reverse.” Now this has some serious impact on two companies: Google and Microsoft. If Google can’t make a tablet operating system compelling enough for people to buy, then will the iPad have a halo effect that makes people want iPhones in much the same way that the iPod and iPhone made people want to purchase a Mac? And Microsoft, if they can’t make a kick ass tablet, and people are buying tablets because they consider their computers too hard to use, what will happen to the personal computer industry?

Expect for 2012 to be a critical year for this relatively new product category. There’s the iPad 3, whatever Ice Cream Sandwich and then later Jelly Bean brings to the table, and of course Windows 8.

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