The findings of a consumer survey by Canalys show that current tablet usage resembles that of a PC or laptop, rather than a media player or ebook reader. After web browsing, both tablet owners and non-owners in Western Europe, linked tablet usage to email/messaging and social networking.

In February 2011, Canalys conducted an online survey of 1,622 consumers in Germany and the UK, to understand their use of and attitudes toward mobile devices, mobile apps and app stores.

Among tablet owners, all three categories rated much higher than ebook reading and video watching. Non-owners, however, expected email/messaging, e-book reading, and video watching to top pad usage after web browsing.

At least 10 percent of Western European tablet owners surveyed by Canalys claimed to use over 24 different application categories, spread across communications, entertainment, leisure/lifestyle and financial/business. Educational apps were the only exception, only used by about 8 percent of pad owners.

iPad owners used a significantly wider range of categories than other tabletd users. The most popular apps among non-iPad owners tended to be relatively functional ones, such as email, social networking, news and banking.

While iPad owners also used these apps, they reported a much higher use of general web browsing and video consumption.

Feedback from potential pad owners shows how tablet marketing campaigns, some of which refer to the devices as ‘media tablets’, have influenced their perceptions.

In reality, tablets have a wide range of uses. While browsing, for example, does include finding and consuming content, it also includes many other activities.

iPad vs netbook

“This broad usage pattern reinforces the pad’s role as a general-purpose computing device, and much more than just a consumption device,” said Canalys analyst Tim Coulling.

“The pad represents a real threat to PC and consumer electronics vendors, as it is capable of replacing devices in a range of other categories.’

Canalys attributes differences between iPad and non-iPad users to screen size, user experience, and app inventory.

While the iPad has a 10-inch screen, a large proportion of other pads have 7-inch screens.

There is evidence from video service providers, such as MobiTV, that the time consumers spend watching video on different devices is directly proportional to screen size.

Non-iPad users’ choice of ebook reading over video watching as the most valuable app by four times as many respondents supports this conclusion.

“Vendors should continue to promote content consumption as an important benefit of pads, especially as ownership spreads to older consumers, while highlighting other uses of the device and preloading advanced browsers and localized messaging and social networking apps,” said Canalys Chief Analyst Adam Daum.

“Pad app stores also need to offer a broader inventory of both apps and content designed to take full advantage of a pad’s size and functionality.”

“Beyond a one-stop sales opportunity, content and apps provide vendors with the chance to drive new revenue streams,” said Daum. ‘

“Apple’s ecosystem suggests that pad owners will generate substantially higher average revenue from app and content sales than smart phone users. Through a combination of appropriate device marketing and app store strategy, device vendors can use apps and content to build customer loyalty.”

Canalys also announced that Apple had increased its year-on-year PC shipment growth by 188 percent in Q1 2011, reaching fourth position in the PC manufacturer league.

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