Blog Post

Tablets, Tablets Everywhere…

Judging by the newsflow in the lead-up to CES, tablets — especially those powered by Google’s Android OS — are going to be one of the biggest themes of the show this year. But will consumers buy into the hype? Forrester says yes.

The research group says that by 2015, tablet sales in the U.S. will reach 44 million units per year, compared to 10.3 million in 2010. That works out to cumulative sales of 195 million, which Forrester says puts it on par with the rate of laptop sales (but not embedded numbers). By that time, 82 million people will be using the devices.

Growth in sales will be driven both by increasing popularity for the devices, price, and the fact that tablets will likely follow purchase cycles similar to phones rather than laptops: that is, they will be refreshed more frequently.

But that growth in sales won’t necessarily translate to an exponential growth in revenues: although devices like the iPad are still priced at a premium, prices are already starting to come down fast.

Forrester notes that the average price for an e-reader has come down by more than two-thirds since the Kindle launched in 2007, with some devices retailing for as low as $139.

In the wider tablet market, there are hints of a similar trend: Vizio, the cut-price HDTV retailer, yesterday launched a tablet alongside a smartphone, both Android-powered. And there will surely be more.

And although the Samsung Galaxy Tab is retailing for $600 (that’s without contract), the influx of other seven-inch models will also contribute to the price reduction.

And as we’ve pointed out before, it may well be the case that even high-end Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) will move into different types of wireless products, including iPads, priced at higher and lower levels, not unlike what it does with laptops and its iPod media players: “We wouldn’t be surprised to see the starting price point for iPads reach $399 in 2011 and $299 in 2012,” writes Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

Content is likely to become much more organised. Some notable trends raised in the report: it’s getting very confusing looking for apps, and browsers are getting better.

These two facts could mean different things: We are already seeing publishers and OS suppliers trying to get more savvy about how they organise and offer apps (for example, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) looking to develop a digital newsstand while Apple tries to overhaul how it presents and charges for apps).

But then again this might all become irrelevant if the browsers improve enough to make app navigation obsolete, or at least unnecessary.