Huge upside for the iPad: Only 20 percent of tablets are used for work

How most tablets are used. Credit: mikecogh via Flickr

The JD Powers tablet satisfaction survey came out today. It’s no surprise that the iPad came out on top and somewhat surprising that the Kindle came in next, in front of Samsung tablets.

But an even more surprising nugget is buried in the report. JD Powers found that 20 percent of tablet owners use their tablets for business activities. That’s right, just 20 percent.

With all the noise about building enterprise apps for access while on the go and talk of huge tablet deployments, 20 percent sounds paltry.                                                                                                                                          

It suggests that the tablet trend is just beginning. If right now only the early adopters have started using them at work, the market is set to boom when the rest of the business world comes on board.

Let’s consider the implications, starting with Apple.

In the wake of its earnings report this week, there has been lots of speculation that it’s about time that Apple needs to invent a new market again, like it did with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. But Slate’s Farhad Manjoo makes an excellent argument for why the iPad is Apple’s next big thing.

By his back-of-the-envelope calculation, based on growth trends of the iPad and the iPhone, by 2015 the iPad will surpass the iPhone as Apple’s best selling product. If growth in business use of iPads really does take off, as the low current business use suggests it might, the iPad may get there even sooner than 2015.

The iPad isn’t quite like the iPod, as Manjoo argues, where people felt stuck to Apple because all their music was in iTunes. Tablet apps don’t have the same stickiness as music – people use loads of free apps, that they easily can download again on a new tablet. Transferring an entire music library is much more cumbersome.

But the iPad has enough other winning features, particularly its ease of use and extensive app store, that Apple will surely stay out front for a while, among both business users and consumers.

The Android picture is a bit murkier for business users. The Android tablet market is likely to follow a similar path as the mobile world and take increasing market share. But like the smartphone market, businesses will be shy to use Android tablets for security reasons, holding back potential growth.

For Microsoft, if continued tablet growth continues to result in declining PC sales, the company will desperately need its tablets to succeed with both businesses and consumers. It’s on the right track – its own Surface sales, thought to be quite modest, seem to have lifted Windows revenue during a quarter that saw a whopping 14 percent decline in PC sales. Strategy Analytics just reported that Windows tablets had 7.4 percent market share in the first quarter, a strong start. Still, Windows tablets haven’t exactly set the world on fire so it’s definitely uncertain whether they’ll ramp up enough to make up for flagging PC sales.

The good news for Microsoft is that even though it looked to have entered the tablet market quite late, the JD Powers survey shows that there could be loads of upside left in the business market, where it has a solid foothold.

If we really have just touched the tip of the iceberg with tablet use in the enterprise, all three platforms have great opportunity ahead of them.

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