iPad: Just Another ‘Free Internet Appliance’?

ABC News iPad app

When the iPad was launched last year, much was made of how it would revolutionize video and other media consumption. But new research may not spell good news for all those companies hoping to profit from that kind of use.

Apparently, current iPad owners are proving to be a little stingy when it comes to paying for content like TV shows and magazines, but the results may not be so bad for the ad industry.

A survey from market research firm Knowledge Networks — using a sample size of just over 200 iPad owners — found that a ratio of six-to-one preferred an ad-supported model over a pay model when it came to content on the iPad. iPad users in the survey downloaded 24 apps on average; but only about one-quarter of those were paid.

“Early-adopters are currently treating the iPad as an internet appliance,” said David Tice, VP at Knowledge Networks, in the release. “Media companies and other content creators cannot assume that iPod behaviors – purchasing content for the device – will be immediately transferred to the iPad.”

Only 13 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay for TV and magazine content, and the price they considered fair was $2.60. When KN asked specifically about magazines, that number went up slightly: 14 percent would be willing to pay for magazine content if it was a special iPad edition of the publication.

Knowledge Networks also says that iPad early adopters “are not demonstrating unique behaviors” so far: six of the seven top reported activities are things like Google (NSDQ: GOOG) searches (97 percent of all users did this); web surfing and email (91 percent each). Media apps had a lower response: 70 percent of people read books regularly on the iPad, 66 percent list to music, 61 percent read magazines and newspapers and around 50 regularly watch TV or movies.

But something else to keep in mind: it’s very early days, and the pool of users surveyed for this research wasn’t exactly huge: just 205 people. Taking a wider sample of people, who own different tablet models, might really start to give us a picture of whether tablets will open a new business opportunity, or not.

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