In-Market Tablet Buyers Favor iPad Over PlayBook

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With the launch of its PlayBook computer set for April 19, Research in Motion is poised to make its entry into the rapidly growing tablet market. But new data from Compete suggests consumers will not be lined up outside stores to get their hands on the device.  

Among consumers who are in the market for a tablet, only 6% indicated they are planning to buy a PlayBook.

By contrast, 40% said they are considering getting an iPad, the Apple tablet that is dominating the category since launching last year. Because the Compete findings were based on survey data collected in February, 20% indicated they would wait for the release of the latest version of the iPad, which came out March 2.

Nearly one-fifth (19%) were eyeing the Galaxy Tab, 16% an as-yet unreleased tablet running on the Android platform, and 11% the Motorola Xoom. Three percent were looking at "other" models, and 21% said they were not planning to buy any of the models asked about.

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Examining the apparent lack of interest in the PlayBook, Compete analyst Greg Carter points to the six-month time lag between its announcements last fall and its actual rollout this month.

"In a competitive marketplace with growing demand for connected devices, nearly six months is far too long to maintain consumer interest," he wrote in a Thursday blog post. That's not to mention that the PlayBook is also hitting stores a full year after the iPad. An admitted BlackBerry fan, Carter says he himself can't wait to get the RIM tablet, but acknowledges there may be a growing number of loyalists who have grown weary and ready to "jump ship."

He also doesn't buy the argument that PlayBook appeals more to the BlackBerry's traditional business user base than to consumers. "But those lines are blurring -- enterprise devices and apps must appeal to users on a more mainstream consumer level. In fact, RIM recently announced the availability of Android apps on the Playbook at launch, signaling that they understand this paradigm shift," he noted.

Furthermore, RIM has said the PlayBook will be comparably priced to the iPad, so the 16GB entry model will sell for $499. That's probably smart, given the slow start the higher-priced Xoom (starts at $599) had. A Deutsche Bank estimate this week put sales of the Motorola tablet at just 100,000 units since it was released March 27. And the Compete survey showed more interest in buying the Android-based Xoom than the PlayBook.

Separate findings posted by Google today suggest that tablet owners generally are spending a considerable amount of time with the devices. Based on a survey of more than 1,400 tablet users in March, Google found that two-thirds (66%) spend at least an hour a day on the device, and 77% said desktop/laptop use has decreased after getting a tablet. The vast majority (82%) use it primarily at home, and more than one in three use their tablet more than they watch TV.

Google points to the usage data as early evidence of the benefits for marketers and developers. On its AdMob mobile ad network, traffic from tablets alone has increased 300% in the last six months. And with 165 million tablets expected to ship in the next two years, Google sees a rapidly growing new ad platform. How much RIM will be able to tap into that opportunity will depend on how the PlayBook sells.

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