2010 -- the Year Tablet Computers Came of Age

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SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Yearning for a gadget that was bigger than a smartphone but smaller than a laptop made tablet computing a defining trend for 2010.The iPad, launched in April by Apple, became the must-have device of the year -- and has rivals intent on dethroning the culture-shifting California company before it can lock in the market the way iPods became the ruling MP3 players."Apple nailed it and made tablet computers a success," said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney. "There are going to be a lot of people trying to beat them but it will turn out like iPods; everybody wants one."Work weeks have grown steadily longer with the proliferation of gadgets keeping people connected to bosses and offices nights and weekends.Our Internet Age lifestyles set the stage for the debut of a tablet computer done right, according to Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps."Consumers are working all the time, have less leisure time and less money to spend but still want to maximize enjoyment they get out of life," Rotman Epps told AFP."Tablets fill that demand for devices that fill those in-between moments and minimize your unconnected time," she said.Forrester data shows that 26 percent of US consumers who bought iPads use the tablets for work as well as personal purposes.The top spot for using an iPad is the living room, with the bedroom being the second most common, according to Forrester."People are using tablets to read the Wall Street Journal or watch TV in bed," Rotman Epps said. "It is replacing, in some circumstances, laptop computers, television and print media."Apple benefited by focusing on regular people instead of businesses, adding its hip cache and having real-world stores where people could try iPads before committing to buying devices, according to Rotman Epps."Apple cracked the market that others had struggled with for years," said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg.Research shows that owners of the Apple tablets consume more video, news and other content online than other people do.Some analysts expect iPad sales will blast past the 10 million mark this month, if they haven't already, and competitors are hitting the market with their own tablets or have announced plans to do so. …