The thing we didn’t know we wanted gets smaller

30/10/12
Often it takes disruptive innovation to make us realise what’s missing

Carmaker Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. There’s no better modern-day example of something I-didn’t-want-until-I-got-one than tablet computers, and the iPad is still at the top of the food chain. Pingdom states that nearly 90% of internet traffic originating from a tablet is in fact coming from an iPad.

Three new tablet launches, from Apple, Microsoft and Google within one week, can’t be a coincidence. Touch interfaces are so easy and intuitive (remember the baby trying to use a magazine like an iPad? ), that if you’re not building a touch device you’re being rapidly left behind. Microsoft is playing simultaneous catch up to Apple’s premium product and dominant market position and to Google’s competitive price point. Microsoft’s media heritage is less well established than the others too, but things change so quickly in today’s media world that it’s anyone’s guess who’ll come out on top.

Is bigger, better?

Tablets are great for second-screen parallel media consumption, and the good news is that it’s not just for the young. Research shows that among those aged between 45 and 54, the use of tablets to watch shows has increased from 11% to 19% in just one year . Our own research found that 1 in 2 over 55s have used a smartphone or tablet while watching TV; an increase of more than 250% in the past two years .

Tablets also provide a reasonable “second-choice” first-screen device for viewing primary content. But what about screen size? There’s a rule about how far away your living room telly should be as a function of its screen size . The further away you sit, the larger the screen should be. Television screens are getting bigger, and that trend is being driven by media consumption. Yet the recent tablet launches are all around the 7” diagonal size, bucking the trend for increased screen size.

What does all this mean for telly?

This means that in places where often we had portable televisions – the kitchen, bedroom, home office – you’ll now likely find a tablet replacing those smaller screen televisions (despite the iPad mini’s disappointingly low resolution of 1024x768 – no Retina display here.) Tablets are more versatile, with a wider variety of apps available to deliver content to you. They’re more responsive and more usable than some connected TVs, and they come with connectivity able to return data about you and your media consumption to drive recommendations and make commerce easy.

Television watching becomes more personal – it puts your favourite TV content literally in the palm of your hands and it makes it social - not just with those physically around you, but with those who you have shared interests.

Six or seven years ago I remember people predicting the death of linear television; the prediction was that everyone would watch TV on demand and create their own channels. It’s clear that the combination of second screen devices and social media have revolutionised those “watercooler TV” moments, in real time and while the programme is on. For primary media consumption the television set is still king. What we connect to it, though, is changing. As the data returning from connected devices, including tablets, gets aggregated and analysed, the media industry’s understanding of consumer behaviour and engagement will help to drive further innovation – which in turn will deliver an even better TV experience to viewers. And smaller, more portable tablets will add to the opportunity.

How will the new generation of tablets change your media consumption? Let me know in the comments below.

Jeremy Sedgley, Head of Change Management