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New tablet models have led to an increase in tablet owners

One in four US adults now owns a tablet computer reports the Pew Internet and American Life Project in a new report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. This report also shows that overall, about two-thirds of those who own tablets bought them in the last year. So what does this mean for those of us in publishing and advertising? Are tablets replacing the need for a laptop or are they taking over as substitutes for print publications? How are tablet owners consuming news compared to print and online readers? While the various posts over the next two weeks will answer these questions, today’s focuses on the the proliferation of tablets, particularly as increased adoption of tablets stimulates more companies to produce competing tablet devices.

As the chart below shows, Apple dominated the tablet market in 2011 with four out of five users owning an iPad. However, this year numerous manufacturers have come out with Android devices, giving Google’s tablet operating system nearly half of the market share. Amazon has also proven itself to be a powerful competitor with its Kindle Fire helping to reduce Apple’s dominance.

So popular are tablets (and Android) that even North Korea has supposedly developed its own Android-based tablet. But what are people using tablets their tablets for?

There are notable differences between users of different tablet devices. iPad owners are overall more likely to use their tablet than Android owners. They are also more frequent news consumers with 43 percent of iPad owners getting news daily news compared to 29 percent of Android owners. Kindle users unsurprisingly are the most likely to read books daily; 38 percent of Kindle owners read books daily compared to 12 percent of iPad owners and other Android owners. Android owners are less likely to use their tablets for other daily activities including social networking, and overall spend less time on their tablets than iPad owners.

The study wasn’t able to measure the recently introduced Google Nexus 7 tablet or the Kindle Fire HD. The introduction of those devices into the tablet playing field will undoubtedly make adoption even easier. What the Pew report does not cover is how various tablet companies are trying to differentiate their products and the audiences these companies are targeting.

Judging from its marketing material, the Microsoft Surface launching this month, for example, is aiming to fill a gap by reaching the enterprise customer (which are not primary targets for current tablet devices). The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 seems like a good fit for those wanting to use the tablet in conjunction with other devices due to its built in USB ports, while the Kindle Fire is appealing to users who frequently read books but are looking for the additional benefits tablets offer.

While many believe that tablets are becoming substitutes for desktops and laptops (in addition to replacing print), the Pew research reveals that in fact, tablets are encouraging a new type of user, the multi-platform consumer. Stayed tuned for Emma’s post on this topic later this week.