Tablets Remain Tops in American Gift-Buying Plans

A slightly-smaller percentage of American families plan to buy a tablet during the holiday season than last year, but tablets remain a hot-ticket item, a market research company reported today.

By Gregg Keizer
Tue, December 10, 2013


A slightly-smaller percentage of American families plan to buy a tablet during the holiday sales season than last year, a market research company reported today.

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According to Dallas-based Parks Associates, 29% of 2,500 U.S. households surveyed said that a tablet was on their to-get gift lists, down from 32% in the same period of 2012.

But tablets remain the hot-ticket item in consumer electronics, said John Barrett, director consumer analytics at Parks -- and Apple's iPad is still the top preferred brand, repeating its position of 2012 and 2011. Amazon, which sells the Kindle, and Samsung were again in second and third place, choice-wise, while Microsoft debuted this year in the fourth spot.

Microsoft sells its own line of tablets, dubbed Surface, in several configurations, including the lower-priced Surface 2 that runs Windows RT and the more expensive Surface Pro 2, powered by Windows 8.1.

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Tablets may be tops -- they're the sole item on the lists of households that plan only one consumer electronics purchase, as well as on those for families that believe they'll buy multiple devices -- but there's an undercurrent that could be long-term trouble for sellers, including Apple.

"There are some underlying dynamics, primarily a competitive tension between tablets and laptops," said Barrett in an interview. "The question is, 'Will the tablet carve out a lasting presence in the home?'"

Barrett said that Parks' data showed consumers are often undecided between tablets and more traditional personal computer laptops because, while each has strengths, each is also a compromise.

"What happens with some consumers is that they go into the store, not sure about what they want," Barrett said. "At the end of the day, those who are undecided pick a laptop." They do so, he said, because they see a notebook as more useful, albeit less convenient.

"We ask consumers about usefulness by asking them how painful it would be without a specific device," said Barrett. "Tablets don't rank as high as other devices."

Of the people polled by Parks, 69% and 61% agreed it would be "very difficult" to give up their smartphone or laptop, respectively, but only 43% said the same about their tablet.

Ideally, consumers want a true 2-in-1, a device that works equally well as a tablet one moment and a notebook the next. But they're not willing to pay a premium price to have one.

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