Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Why Bother With Wireless? Tablet Owners Stay Tethered.

tablet in field shutterstockIn theory, it’s a choice for lots of tablet buyers: Do you get the iPad, or Kindle Fire, or whatever, with a wireless data connection, or without one?

But in reality, for most tablet buyers, it’s a non-issue. They are overwhelmingly buying tablets that have only Wi-Fi connections. Which means they can only get online when they’re within shouting distance of a router.

Analyst Craig Moffett spells it out in a recent research report on the telco industry: Only 20 percent of tablets are sold with wireless chipsets. And only half of those devices are initially connected to wireless networks.

And Moffett guesstimates that perhaps half of that number end up disconnecting their wireless subscriptions (which is what happened in my focus group of one). Which would mean that only one in 20 tablets are connected to a wireless data plan.

moffett tablet wireless

Moffett’s chart comes out of a very lengthy report on the wireless industry, and he brings it up in the context of data revenue that carriers like AT&T will be able to extract from subscribers.

But the numbers are also useful for people in the media business to consider as they think about where and when tablet owners are actually interacting with the Internet. Yes, it’s possible that someone is accessing your website on their iPad when they’re in the middle of a field. But it’s much more likely that they are using it at their desk, or on the couch, or in bed — especially if they’re watching video.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik