Mobility

Tablets: Why the middle-aged are their biggest fans

The older generation, those aged 45 plus, are leading the shift towards tablet computing and away from PCs, and not - contrary to received wisdom - millennials, according to research.

The cliché is that the rise of the tablet - and demise of the PC - is being driven by keyboard-phobic millennials. But it seems that in the UK it is the middle-aged who are most likely to turn their backs on traditional computers in favour of a slate.

In a survey of UK households, 45 to 54-year-olds were the most likely age group to own a tablet, with the 35 to 44-year-olds just behind.

In a blog post on the results Richard Holway, chairman of analyst firm TechMarketView, said: "This is very unusual as every other technology has first been adopted by younger age groups. Of course, cost has something to do with it. But I think it is more profound than that.

Speaking to TechRepublic he said: "I've been around in the computer industry since 1966. I've witnessed all the 'next-big-things' (NBT). But I have never witnessed as fast a take-up for any NBT as the touchscreen tablet, or let's be more specific, one particular tablet – the iPad. "I think this acceptance, regardless of age, for this NBT is a profound change from what has happened before. The combination of extreme ease of use, the instant start-up, the access to such a huge and rich library of stuff to consume, and the mobility factor have all come together in one device at one time."

According to the research by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, the appeal of the tablet seems to be hard to grasp until you use one. The majority of respondents - 63 per cent - said their tablet surpassed than their initial expectations and one third said that they didn't see a point of a tablet computer - until they got one. A third even went so far as agreeing with the statement "I couldn't live without my tablet computer".

The sentiment struck a chord with Holway: "I know many 65+ friends who would concur with the 'I couldn't live without my tablet computer'. If I was Apple (or whoever) I'd launch a tablet campaign specifically directed at the over 60s."

Tablets do appear to be eroding PC use. Roughly a third of the people surveyed said that after acquiring a tablet they used their laptops and desktop PC less. Even though a key reason for purchase is portability, 87 per cent of tablet owners said they mainly use it at home.

Tablet ownership rose from two per cent of UK households in the first quarter of 2011 to 11 per cent in the first quarter of 2012. One in six households said they intend to buy a tablet in the next year.

Do you agree that the tablet is a device well-suited to those middle-aged and older? Why do you think it's striking a chord with the older generation who've been using PCs most of their lives?

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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