Arguments I hear from broadband carriers about broadband adoption rates, or lack thereof in certain communities,includes the fact that many people lack a computer at home and some people simply don’t want/need broadband. Pew Research supports one of these assertions with their latest market research on Americans and Their Gadgets, reporting 76% of Americans own a computer (laptop or PC).  

So, based on this data, 24% of Americans don’t have a computer and thus probably don’t need broadband, right? That may not be entirely true anymore, because the way we access the Internet is changing rapidly, and the computer may not be the main source of access for much longer.

This phenomenon is happening much more quickly in lesser developed economies, where average people can’t afford a computer. For them, the cell phone is their main source of access. Within the U.S., other gadgets are growing rapidly as a source for Internet access, including smartphones, and most recently, tablet computers, which are currently best represented by the Apple iPad.

We’ve discussed earlier how the iPad may now well be the fastest adopted consumer electronic product in history, with 50K being purchased everyday. Its impact is cutting into traditional computer sales, particularly netbooks. It’s not a hard leap to assume that some, maybe many, of those 24% of people who currently don’t own a computer, may make the leap to a tablet, bypassing the PC entirely. After all, the iPads’ popularity is not just among geeks and the young.

Its ease of use and multimedia and broadband centric experience may help move the needle for broadband adoption among the current crop of broadband non-believers. It might be worth some experimentation by carriers who are looking to entice customers who have chosen not to subscribe to broadband just yet. Indeed, the iPad (and overall tablet computer segment) is a trend that deserves much attention.

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5 thoughts on “Will the iPad Help Close the Broadband Gap?

  1. Nice analysis, but ipad doesn't solve bigger issue of cost – most people who don't have a PC, don't have it because it costs too much. Not sure the ipad solves this.

  2. Nice point Jim, but I do believe pricing for tablets (iPad's included) will come down. It's a market dominated by Apple right now, but a ton of competition is coming from Samsung/Dell/Panasonic on the Android platform and then their is RIM/BlackBerry and Microsoft coming as well. I suspect we'll see cost come down significantly as a result.

  3. What is the demographic breakdown of iPad owners–esp. those that do not own a PC and/or had not previously subscribed to broadband?

    If the answer is "very few" (as I suspect) then it won't help to close the adoption gap, unless something happens to change the demographic. iPad marketing doesn't target low income, low education, elderly, and they are generally so convinced they don't need broadband a simple advertising approach isn't going to change their minds anyway

  4. Mar – great points – don't know the breakdown of iPad demographics (although anecdotally, I'm amazed at the demographic diversity I see with the iPad). I agree that iPad marketing probably isn't targeting people who don't have broadband. But I do think the iPad experience is one of those experiences that once you see/feel it, you're sold.

    In that regard, carriers themselves might look to find ways to demonstrate that experience to their non-broadband customers. Also, if the growth of tablets continues on its current trajectory, all demographics will become aware of them.

  5. Unless something has changed, the iPad has to be tethered to a computer, either Mac or PC. First you need a PC to activate the iPad itself and then you need to be able to get software and potentially hardware updates. Most of us would love to be able to get our updates directly over the Net and there are rumors, but right now, you need a PC.

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