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What's next for tablet shipments and usage?

What's next for tablet use numbers?

The tablet market has had an interesting few years. First considered a compromise between PCs and smartphones, the tablet was a device type that people didn't really need, but the introduction of the iPad changed everything. Since that event, business and consumer users alike have been finding interesting new uses for their tablets, all while the hardware has gotten larger in some cases and smaller in others. The end destination of the tablet market still seems very much up in the air, with content developers caught in the middle. These professionals need to determine the direction tablets will go to maximize the effectiveness of their mobile content.

Securing the user base
CNET explained that recent eMarketer survey results show conflicting forces at work in the tablet space. On one hand, there is a huge and thriving user base present in the world today - 1 billion individuals. By 2018, that figure will be 1.43 billion. On the other hand, this torrid growth is predicted to slow considerably. While the number of tablet users has spent the past five years skyrocketing from virtually nothing to that round billion, the rate of growth really has nowhere to go but down. Still, the already impressive install base is a good sign for content creators.

The source noted that eMarketer found many of the devices currently in use are in the heavily developed world, and growing economies are not likely to become big factors in the market. This is a marked contrast to the smartphone space, where affordable Chinese hardware seems poised to take advanced device use well beyond the most developed regions. This, along with the facts that large-screen smartphones are on the rise and many users share their tablets, has limited the market's ability to grow at a sustained or increasing rate. While this may be worrying for device manufacturers, content creators will likely find an audience for their offerings.

There's one element of tablet hardware that may prevent it from ever reaching smartphone levels of ubiquity. CNET quoted the eMarketer study, which pointed out that since individuals use their smartphones as major communication devices, they always have a role. Tablets, while they have some communication features, do not boast this obvious place in the landscape.

When it comes to viewing content, though, not supporting tablet hardware could be a mistake. The 1 billion people who use these devices will expect Web materials to display correctly on their large, high-resolution screens.

A laptop resurgence?
In addition to tablets and large-screen smartphones, another device type may be competing for market share in the year ahead: very thin notebook PCs, according to a ZDNet report on Gartner device research. The source explained that researchers have observed great potential for the "ultramobile premium" PC segment. These devices are on the line between tablets and computers when it comes to thin form factors, but users may opt for them because they are full-featured computers. As ZDNet noted, Gartner sees these devices not only challenging tablets but driving PCs as a whole. When it comes to planning content offerings, it may be wise to consider ultramobile computer screens alongside tablets and phones.

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