The consumer computer market is in robust health, with 40% of homes owning two or more tablets, lap tops or desktop machines, writes Jane Bainbridge.
Although the consumer computer sector is inevitably fast-changing, the arrival of the tablet with the launch of Apple's iPad in April 2010 was still one of the biggest innovations to hit the market in decades.
The old discussions about features were suddenly obsolete as Apple introduced a computer that was more mobile phone and media centre than PC, with a coffee table kudos that was unprecedented in this market.
Others have followed Apple's lead. By the end of the year, Mintel predicts that tablet sales will reach pounds 450m. While desktops once dominated the computer market, over the years consumers have opted for more portable machines, such as laptops and netbooks.
Between 2006 and 2010, laptop volume sales doubled, boosted by cheaper prices. The total UK consumer market for desktop machines will reach pounds 632m and laptops pounds 2.4bn by the end of 2011, according to Mintel.
Tablet computers are likely to cannibalise desktop and laptop sales, although analyst predictions vary as to the degree; forecasts range from 10% to 50% cannibalisation in the next three years.
However, for people creating longer text documents, the lack of a 'proper' keyboard on tablets is a drawback. They are geared more toward content consumption.
No matter what choice of machine shoppers go for, ownership of computers has increased steadily and 80% of households now own one, compared with 72% in 2006. Multiple ownership is also becoming common: 40% of households have two or more computers, according to GMI. It appears that while a desktop tends to be shared in a household, laptops are considered personal devices, more in line with mobile phones, so family members often have their own.
Computers of all types remain a big-ticket item, but price deflation has been widespread, because processing power is becoming less expensive The price of all information processing equipment, from computers to printers, has dropped by 59% in the six years to June 2011, compared with inflation of 19% over the same period.
The one blip in this trend might come as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this year. A major supplier of components for computers, Japanese production was severely affected by the disaster.
When it comes to buying a computer, the options are almost endless and include electronic retailers, department stores, online generalist stores, specialists, supermarkets, direct from the manufacturer, and so on.
The proliferation of options has put pressure on electronics retailers, but they are still the most likely purchase source, used by 43% of UK consumers for their most recent computer purchase, according to GMI. …