This could be big. Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet began shipping today -- one day ahead of schedule, and at least one survey suggested demand for it may exceed that for Apple's iPad 2. Retrevo, an online shopping guide, said it had done a survey showing that of people interested in having a tablet computer, 44 percent could consider buying the Fire, while just 12 percent said they were only interested in the iPad, which has been the market leader up to now. The Fire has the advantage of being newer and cheaper -- $199 for the Fire vs. $499 and up for the larger iPad 2.
Tablets have carved out a big place in the consumer technology world, and the Fire's release coincides with another study showing that not only are people buying them in place of conventional computers, they're more engaged with them when they get them.
Ooyala, a firm that provides video support to many major brands, said it had found people, on average, watched videos 30 percent longer on a tablet than they did on a desktop computer, and they were twice as likely to watch a video in its entirety.
"Tablets offer an engaging full-screen experience," said Bismarck Lepe, Ooyala's co-founder and President of Products, in an email. "Unlike a browser environment, where the video player is often embedded with surrounding text and images, a full-screen tablet player is all about the video. It's up close and personal."
The report showed that attention spans are still short; fewer than 40 percent of those included in Ooyala's data watched an online video all the way through on a tablet. But that was considerably higher than for other types of devices. About 30 percent watched videos in their entirety on a handheld mobile (a smartphone) or through a TV connected to the Internet. And fewer than 20 percent of users finished a video if they were watching on a desktop computer.
For longer programs, predictably, bigger screens still rule.
"For videos more than 10 minutes long, viewers using connected TV devices and game consoles were more than twice as likely to complete a video as viewers on desktops," said Adam Sewall of Ooyala.
But the arrival of tablets -- such as the iPad, Samsung's Galaxy Tab line, and Barnes & Noble's new Nook Tablet -- show how quickly media patterns are changing. The Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center reported last month that 53 percent of tablet owners use tablets to read news stories, about as many as use it for email (54 percent) -- and far more than for social networking (39 percent) or gaming (30 percent).
"I think the figures paint an incredibly promising story," said Ooyala's Lepe. "Simply put, the potential audiences have never been bigger. Globally, people are watching more and more video across a range of devices and platforms. And, as our report suggests, viewers are engaging with content in new ways. Both these trends point to a huge and growing opportunity for content providers."