RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
This year, tablet computer sales skyrocketed. Numbers so far show that Apple's iPad sales surged up 70 percent over last year, and Amazon's Kindle Fire has become a bestselling item on Amazon.com.
NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin has more on the tablet revolution and why tablets will probably be popular for a long time to come.
SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: Tablets are on a lot of people's wish lists this year. A Nielsen survey found the iPad is the most wanted gift for kids age six to 12. Some have taken their appeals to YouTube.
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UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I don't want much, but I really want the iPad.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: If an iPad for your kid isn't in the budget, there are some 30 other tablets out there to choose from, including the shiny new Kindle Fire, luring you with its $199 price tag. In just a few weeks, it's rocketed up to the second-place spot in the tablet market.
RHODA ALEXANDER: I think what the Kindle Fire does is it provides a gateway to the tablet universe for people.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Rhoda Alexander, senior manager of Tablet and Monitor Research for IHS, says having that lower-priced tablet on the market brings tablets into the mainstream.
ALEXANDER: A lot of people looked at the iPad before, but thought it was out of their price range or that they'd wait for a while.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Now they've got an entree into tablet land. To give you an idea, IHS predicts that nearly 65 million tablets will be shipped this year - up a whopping 270 percent from last year. This is for a class of devices that basically didn't exist just two years ago.
ALEXANDER: If you think about the economy we've had and the hesitancy to spend across large parts of the economy, this is one area where we've seen solid spending and solid growth.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Not only are people buying tablets, they're buying things on tablets.
SUCHARITA MULPURU: You know, if you're sitting in your living room watching television, you could see a new product and, you know, you are like, hmm, that's a great idea. I'm going to go and check it out.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: That's Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst at Forrester Research.
MULPURU: You can add it to your cart and, you know, complete that transaction with a one-click buy. So that's how seamless that experience is, and it's on its way to you within, you know, probably within 24 hours.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Still, so far, only a small proportion of Americans have a tablet - 11 percent, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which came out with a study on tablet use in the fall. The center's deputy director, Amy Mitchell, says those early-adopters fit a pretty defined profile.
AMY MITCHELL: They are 30-49 years old. They tend to be more employed full time than the population overall. They have a higher family income than the population overall, and are more highly educated.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: She says now that there are lower-priced tablets out there, the population of tablet owners will likely expand and diversify. So is the tablet revolution here to stay? Or will it go the way of the netbook, that little laptop which had a huge showing a few years ago, and now - who has a netbook? So far, there are a few signs tablets have staying power. For one, Rhoda Alexander at IHS says tablets have wide appeal.
ALEXANDER: What we're seeing is interest across the market, not just from consumers, but from business, and particularly from education.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Second, it seems like once people get tablets, they love them. In the Pew study, over 70 percent of tablet owners used them every day for an average of 90 minutes. Plus, surveys have found people use them instead of their other devices, like PCs and smartphones, not just as an add-on diversion. But then, these are technicalities for that six-to-12-year-old group making the case on YouTube for an iPad under the tree.
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UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: It's so awesome. Please!
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: The tablet market is young enough that many people are still watching and waiting to see what's coming out next. Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR News.
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