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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 UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

19 comments
Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

OK so they have done some research and said that people of a certain age are the most likely buyers of tablets. Some of us who have been around and watched the internet become, and develop, still like to have the latest toys. Money and justification have always been the constraints, but as a gift to myself while recovering from a knee replacement (aged 65), I got an android tablet. It's limited, I have had to reinstall the OS at least twice, but I have had fun with it, and it is the sort of thing I would take on holiday with me for simple surfing and email. But I still don't consider myself middle-aged! Because I still get a lot of excitement out of the changes and developments in technology, I don't consider myself 'aged' at all.

jmfcosta
jmfcosta

People at 45+ are already at an age where they can identify what needs to be taken out of the office (short trip, presentation, meeting) from what always will need the power of a desktop or laptop to be worked on in depth. Tablets are the answer - light, enough memory, quick, long battery life. If Surface delivers, together with Win8, we could have the solution for all of the above, plus the possibility of doing some work while away in a proper keyboard,without having our brain to switch modes between 2 or 3 OS.

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

If I wasn't so skint I'd buy a tablet, but it would no sooner replace my PC, or laptops, than my smartphone will replace my camera, or MP3 player.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...one third said that they didnt see a point of a tablet computer - until they got one." And I won't see the point or get one until the prices drop considerably. I'm in that 45-54 demographic, but I don't know what I would do with one. I only spent about $300 on my most recent desktop, a Dell 'scratch and dent'. I don't value mobility enough to pay almost twice that for a less capable device. Just me, I guess.

tlevin_tlsi
tlevin_tlsi

Tablets are more appealing to older folks because they are simpler to use (prefer to use hands rather than a mouse and keyboard), easier to see (big icons, can bring close to face), require little to no maintenance, do everything they need without requiring computer knowledge and portable. What else can you ask for?

TNT
TNT

Speaking for myself, when younger I wanted a PC that could run a small country. Was I running a small country? No. But I wanted to have the power to. As you get older you realize that most tasks don't require a lot of power, and while a 16-core desktop may render HD video in record time it isn't any faster at getting my email or looking up a recipe online. And you still have to wait for it to boot up. A tablet on the other hand can be with me in the garage so I can watch that instructional video about how to repair my car while I do the repair. Or I can read my email while smoking a cigar in the cool of the evening on my back porch. The older one gets the more downtime one has and the more a tablet makes sense.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

With that said, at 53 I consider myself middle-aged. It beats the alternative.

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

Your smartphone has the capability built-in, unless you have terabytes of songs you want to play, why not use that and only carry the one device? I also own a DSLR but I'm not taking that to the pub with me so my smartphone camera will suffice. Since getting an iPad (ok, a TouchPad first) I rarely use my Mac except for managing and editing my photos. I'd be lost without my iPad now.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

a lot of writing and editing as the keyboard is so useful. I can see how someone who uses the computer for only web browsing and checking their web mail would find a tablet a lot easier to use and move about, especially while lying in bed.

Randy Hagan
Randy Hagan

I tried the smartphone thing, and rejected it because of the itty-bitty screen and the micro-type I saw on it. Retired my nice Android smartphone and about $100 worth of sorta useful apps because I tired of pulling out my reading glasses (and sometimes a magnifying glass too) every time I wanted to do something with it besides make a call. A simple "dumb" flip phone with speakerphone capability, better reception and a middling back-facing camera meets all my needs. But when I was compelled to buy an iPad for some demo work I needed to do, I was almost instantly transformed into an active mobile user. The ability to pinch-zoom text onscreen and be able to read it easily makes it personally worth it to me to carry my iPad in a converted leather journal case and use it regularly. After I paired it up with a folding Bluetooth keyboard, I was armed and dangerous for most of my light-duty road and office work. I still have Dell and MacBook Pro laptops for heavy-duty work, but a tablet is much easier to pack in my briefcase -- or carry without one -- for an increasing amount of my digital work. Heck, if Microsoft could come up with a cogent version of Office for Small Business on the iOS platform, I'd seriously consider retiring one of the laptops.

Nebraska Jack
Nebraska Jack

You hit the nail on the head with the phrase "easier to see." I still work all day on my PC with dual monitors (34" total diagonal) and I love love love my iPhone - couldn't live without it. But that iPhone screen suddenly got much smaller and harder to read when I got an iPad. Sitting in my rocker (will be 67 on Saturday) with my tired eyes I'll pick up the iPad every time.

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

when microprocessors first came on the scene. The young hotshots wanted to do everything with micros when half a dozen transistors would do the job.

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

I take the MP3 player to the gym. It's smaller than my phone, does one thing, and I won't be terribly upset if it is damaged. I take my sDSLR when I am planning to take pictures. I have occasionally taken "candid" pics with my phone when the camera was not available or I did not want to retrieve the camera. I won't load my phone with music because I have an MP3 player for that use and that's only at the gym. I hope you never lose your iPad, we might never see you again because you'll be lost.

ruffyy
ruffyy

You can get a Bluetooth keyboard then you will have the equivalent of a netbook without 160 GB memory. but enough to store and edit documents.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

because it also gets FM radio. Actually, I listen to the radio most of the time. The player is just for downloaded ... radio programs. Of course, another reason is I don't have a smart phone.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

have some a lot more rugged with extra capabilities and a bigger screen. If I ever decide to go that way I'll get one that has the screen you can swivel rounds and lay back down over the keyboard for when not using the keyboard, those tend to also have touch screen capability for when wanted - if at all.