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One in three Americans now own a tablet or e-reader

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Recent explosion in tablet/e-reader ownership

According to a report released today by Pew Internet & American Life Project, one in three American adults own either a tablet or an ereader with the share of tablet owners and ereader owners doubling between December 2011 and January 2012, with the holiday season being very kind to the tablet/ereader industry.

Pew notes, “These findings are striking because they come after a period from mid-2011 into the autumn in which there was not much change in the ownership of tablets and e-book readers. However, as the holiday gift-giving season approached, the marketplace for both devices dramatically shifted. In the tablet world, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet were introduced at considerably cheaper prices than other tablets. In the e-book reader world, some versions of the Kindle and Nook and other readers fell well below $100.”

Tablet computer ownership rose considerably among the more educated and higher income households, and people under 50 getting on the tablet/ereader wagon, fueled by Amazon Kindle and the iPad. Pew points out that the growth of e-reader ownership is different than with tablets, as e-readers grew particularly with women, along with higher income homes and individuals with higher education levels. “The gap between [tablets and e-readers] and others isn’t as dramatic. For instance, 19% of those in households earning $30,000-$50,000 have e-book readers. They are 12 percentage points behind those in households earning $75,000 or more in e-book reader ownership. The gap between those income levels on tablet ownership is 20 percentage points.”

App developers are responding in kind with the number of Android and iPad apps flooding the market, many of which are free or on a freemium model. The concept of smartphones already took off and tablets/e-readers are not far behind. It was originally speculated that people would choose between a tablet and a smartphone, but consumers have gotten used to the idea of owning multiple devices, a trend that looks to last at least through 2012.

Tablets

Apple announced the 128 GB iPad will launch next week

Apple’s product announcement today of a new 128 GB iPad has been met with mixed reactions as the company shifts its process in the post-Jobs era.

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128 GB iPad on the way

Apple today announced a new 128 GB version of the fourth generation iPad with retina display to be launched next Tuesday, February 5th in black or white. Pricing will be set at $799 for the iPad with Wi-Fi, and $949 for the iPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular model.

“With more than 120 million iPads sold, it’s clear that customers around the world love their iPads, and everyday they are finding more great reasons to work, learn and play on their iPads rather than their old PCs,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “With twice the storage capacity and an unparalleled selection of over 300,000 native iPad apps, enterprises, educators and artists have even more reasons to use iPad for all their business and personal needs.”

Mixed reactions to the 128 GB iPad launch

“The features and capabilities of iPad give us the ability to set a new standard for multitrack recording and editing on a mobile device,” said Rim Buntinas, WaveMachine Labs’ CEO. “Users of the Auria app can play 48 mono or stereo 24bit/96 kHz tracks simultaneously, record up to 24 of those tracks simultaneously, and also edit and mix with familiar tools. With its portability and all-day battery life, iPad has revolutionized recording for audio professionals allowing artists to record anywhere.”

Fans have taken to Twitter to hail the announcement, particularly musicians and media creators, but a large number of Apple fans have commented on blogs that while excited, they had hoped for a different kind of innovation, or an announcement of a next generation device rather than a pricier version of what they are already carrying in hand.

With rumors continuing to echo that Apple will create lower-end devices (read: cheap) for developing nations, skeptics are quietly questioning the company’s plans, and with the product launch schedule becoming more erratic, the company is not necessarily losing its popularity by any means, but die hard fans are showing signs of fatigue at bi-annual (possibly soon to be tri-annual?) product rollouts that theoretically make their brand new expensive device old.

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Tablets

Next generation iPad, iPad mini may be released in March

Continuing with Apple’s accelerated launch schedule, rumors are flying of a spring iPad and iPad mini launch.

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iPad and iPad mini: spring launch?

A new report showcasing observations from the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas includes hints at a spring release for the next generation iPad and iPad mini.

Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White said, “Our checks at CES indicate Apple will release the iPad 5 and the second-generation iPad mini this March. The iPad 5 is expected to be lighter and thinner than the iPad 4 that was released in October, while the form factor of the iPad mini should be similar to the first generation iPad mini that debuted in October.”

These reports are similar to what various international bloggers have noted, with dozens of claims that Apple is now observing an accelerated product release schedule, particularly with the iOS family of devices, as the company aggressively seeks to keep their market share.

Big changes at Apple

In years past, the company typically observed annual update cycles, and tech analysts could react accordingly, as could consumers, but last fall’s fourth-generation iPad release only seven months after the third generation iPad shocked the world. Many assumed the move was a way to usher in the post-Jobs era after the passing of the company’s CEO, but with rumors swirling of a spring release and the possibility of more releases annually, it appears a change in the company rather than a one-time marketing ploy. It remains unclear.

Rumors of a less expensive iPhone for emerging global markets were subject to criticism as more than one executive said it would never happen, others say the company plans to offer lower priced smartphones without sacrificing quality, but other analysts note the opposite.

Coupling the two recent rumor reports, the most obvious conclusion one can come to is that Apple is coming up with a new formula in the face of tight competition.

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Tablets

20 million touchscreen Google Chromebooks to ship in 2012?

Reports out of China indicate that rumors of a touchscreen Google Chromebook are true as a Taiwanese component maker is gearing up to outfit 20 million units of Google’s own branded Chromebook.

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Google Chromebook going touchscreen?

As laptops and dekstops are increasingly becoming touchscreen to compete with the surging tablet market, reports out of China indicate that Google Chromebooks are going the way of touchscreen as well, which would bring the cloud-centric computing theory to a broader user base. Digitimes.com reports that Google will launch a 12.85-inch Chrome OS touch-controlled notebook for own-brand sale, with Taiwan-based Compal Electronics responsible for OEM production and Wintek supplying touch panels, citing the Chinese-language Commercial Times (CT) indicates, based on Taiwan-based supply chain makers.

The technology news outlet says that Taiwan-based makers have begun shipping components for the notebook and Compal will start shipments as soon as the end of 2012.

Making the Chromebook touchscreen could make it a viable competitor to various tablets already on the market as well as those set to hit for the holidays, with Chromebook fans lauding the light weight and innovative operating system, perfect for true mobile browsing, which functions far differently from the app-heavy tablets Google is clearly taking aim at with their next product.

A new strategy for Google?

Additionally, a touchscreen Chromebook would indicate the first new strategy coming out of the Chromebook department, as the current devices run between $200 and $450, a low barrier to entry which has aided adoption since its launch. Critics claim that because Chromebooks must be connected to the internet in order to function, they could limit use, but supporters claim that most offline use is now within range of wi-fi, making the cloud-based system ideal, freeing up hard drive space for actual use rather than heavy programs and operating systems.

Some believe that this new touchscreen could raise the cost of the device, which could make its competitive edge dull a bit, but it would also put it in the price range of many of the new touchscreen laptops hitting the market, which could help it to directly compete not only on features, but by being featured alongside bigger competitors like the new Microsoft Surface.

With 20 million units reportedly being outfitted by Taiwan’s Compal and shipping in 2012, technologist’s eyes and shoppers’ eyes will be squarely on the inexpensive Chromebook options, especially when it offers touchscreen options.

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