SOURCE: The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group

March 01, 2011 10:22 ET

Global Awareness of Tablets and E-Readers Is Rising Fast, According to a New Study by The Boston Consulting Group

On the Eve of the Anticipated Launch of Apple's iPad 2, Consumer Demand Remains Strong, Despite the High Prices

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - March 1, 2011) - Consumers around the world are increasingly aware of tablets and e-readers and are prepared to buy these devices, especially if prices come down, according to a survey of more than 14,000 consumers in 16 markets, including China, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.

These findings suggest that the initial consumer interest in these devices, which reached a crescendo in April 2010 with the release of Apple's iPad, remains strong. Apple sold 3 million iPads in the U.S. in the first 80 days after its release and is set to release its new model on Wednesday in San Francisco.

"This survey confirms that tablets and e-readers are set to rapidly become the next must-have device," said Dominic Field, a BCG partner and U.S. leader of the firm's media practice. "The focus, therefore, will rapidly shift to key questions around who will win and how much value will be created or destroyed in the process."

Two-thirds, or 67 percent, of all U.S. consumers were familiar with tablets and e-readers in December 2010, when the survey was conducted, up from 54 percent in March 2010, when BCG conducted a similar survey. The U.S. findings mirrored those in most other markets. In China, some 73 percent were familiar with these devices -- the highest of any of the markets in the survey. In the U.K., the figure was 59 percent -- up 16 percent, the biggest jump in awareness of any market.

Worldwide, intent to purchase remains strong: 69 percent of consumers who are already familiar with tablets and e-readers are planning to purchase one of these devices in the next three years, down only slightly from 73 percent in the March 2010 survey. In the U.S., 50 percent of consumers familiar with these devices plan to buy a tablet or an e-reader in the next year, up 3 percentage points since March.

Despite the tendency for the prices of consumer electronics products to decline rapidly, consumers are still willing to pay tablet prices similar to the amounts they were willing to pay in March, especially in Europe. Consumers in Italy, for example are willing to spend up to $330 for a tablet. In Germany, the upper limit is about $260, and in the U.S., about $200. While these amounts are below the $499 entry price of an iPad, they suggest where tablets could be selling in a year or so if prices fall in line with the price declines of other consumer-electronics products.

The launch of tablets and e-readers is already among the most successful of a consumer electronics product. These devices are gaining mass acceptance faster than VCRs, MP3 players, or other comparable products at similar stages in their evolution.

For single-purpose e-readers, U.S. consumers are willing to spend up to $130, which is only slightly less than the $139 entry-level Kindle from Amazon. The larger issue for single-purpose e-readers is whether they can compete successfully against the multipurpose tablets. In the global survey, 53 percent of respondents said they would want to buy a tablet, while only 15 percent said they wanted an e-reader. Globally, 84 percent want to be able to read e-mail on these devices, while 85 percent want to be able to browse online content, and 69 percent want to view videos.

The survey offers hope for publishers and other content owners that view tablets as an opportunity to create digital revenue streams. Consumers are willing to pay about the same amount for digital content presented on tablets as they were in March 2009. U.S. consumers are willing to spend $5 to $10 for a digital book, $3 to $6 for a monthly magazine subscription, and $5 to $10 for a monthly newspaper subscription. These price levels are sufficiently encouraging to give content owners confidence that their digital investments will pay dividends.

"The challenge -- and opportunity -- is to produce immersive, interactive content that engages consumers and provides a real revenue stream for publishers," said John Rose, a senior partner at BCG and global leader of the firm's media practice.

For more information on the survey or to arrange an interview with one of the BCG partners involved, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or gregoire.eric@bcg.com.

About the Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted over the Web in December 2010. A total of 14,314 respondents from 16 markets participated: Australia, Austria, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, the U. K., and the U. S. There were at least 700 respondents from each market. All respondents were Web users and readers of print books, magazines, or newspapers. There were equal numbers of male and female respondents. Respondents were located throughout their respective markets, except for those from Australia, South Korea, and China, where the results were tilted toward urban areas.

About The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients in all sectors and regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their businesses. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 71 offices in 41 countries. For more information, please visit www.bcg.com.