Tablets and the 24-hour digital day

14.8 million Number of iPads sold within first nine months

No single piece of digital technology exemplifies better than the tablet the degree to which telecoms, media, and technology (TMT) have become inter-dependent. The tablet also demonstrates the desire of consumers, across segments, to adopt new technologies quickly—an attitude not long ago confined to a niche segment.

Indeed, in the first nine months after launch, 14.8 million iPads were sold, faster even than the iPhone, and more than five times as fast as many analysts’ predictions. To put it in perspective, it took three months to sell a million iPhones and just 28 days to sell as many iPads. In fact, the iPad is on its way to becoming the fastest-selling consumer electronic device ever, in its first year.

In retrospect, the success of tablets was certainly not obvious when Apple decided to develop one. It was an audacious innovation because it was positioned as a “third device” between the smartphone and the laptop. There was no evidence that consumers were clamoring for a third device, and there was real concern that the iPad could eat into the sales of Apple’s other products. That didn’t happen.

McKinsey recently conducted extensive research to understand how people use their tablet, and what they like and dislike about it. This research included quantitative analysis, in addition to 90-minute interviews with a variety of users and several “safaris” –in-home ethnographic explorations with iPad users and their families. This served to provide insights that could prove highly beneficial for TMT companies.