Usability and Shareability to Drive Tablet Market

Everyone is talking about the iPad lately, but a slew of new tablets is set to arrive, the latest being RIM’s PlayBook, which we shared a detailed look at just last night. Aside from the revamped mobile platform built on QNX and a relative lack of applications at launch, the most immediately striking difference between the PlayBook (s rimm) and the iPad (s aapl) is the size. RIM’s tablet is almost exactly half the size of Apple’s device.

That factor may be just as important as hardware specifications and third-party apps because consumers and enterprise workers alike are taking computer activities to a portable setting. And it underscores how we are changing the way we consume digital content through these tablets. While laptops are designed for productivity from a single user — one who’s often sitting at a desk or table — tablets can deliver a more casual, immersive experience in, say, a recliner, or on the couch. And the intuitive touch navigation of tablets make them attractive to an astonishingly wide range of users, from young children (just ask any kid that’s used a tablet!) to technophobes and older consumers.

That ease-of-use and portability also makes tablets easily shared within households, businesses and schools, as our colleague Peter Crocker notes in a new tablet forecast at GigaOM Pro (subscription required). The communal use not only makes it easier to justify the cost, it also exposes newcomers to the experience, driving demand.

The tablet market is a wide-open one, of course, and includes everything from seven-inch gadgets like the PlayBook and Samsung Galaxy Tab to the now-iconic iPad. And while the iPad 2 currently dominates the market (as well as the public mindshare), we’re just beginning to see some worthy competitors running different operating systems. In addition to the new PlayBook, tablet buyers will get a taste of HP’s excellent-looking webOS when the HP (s hpq) TouchPad arrives in a few months. And this summer, Samsung will release the Galaxy Tab 10.1 v, which sports a dual-core processor and will feature Honeycomb, a new Android (s goog) flavor built especially for tablets. Just as important, we’re sure to see gadgets offered at a wide variety of price points in the coming months.

This vast disparity will play a role in an overall market that sees 54 percent compound annual growth over the next five years, reaching 145 million units shipped in 2015, according to Crocker’s forecast. But the most important driver for the tablet market will be the unique way we use them to consume — and share — digital content.

To read Peter Crocker’s forecast on the worldwide media tablet market, please read the full report.

Image courtesy of henribergius via Creative Commons