Second screen explosion: Tablets continue crazy growth, ‘most wanted gift’ this holiday season

By Cory Bergman 

I don’t know about you, but the rapid growth of tablets has been mind-boggling. They’re the fastest-growing consumer electronics device ever made: 31% of online Americans now own a tablet, more than doubling the ownership rate from October of last year (14%). Nearly half (45%) of online consumers told the Consumer Electronics Association that they expect to purchase a tablet within the next two years, and tablets are the #1 “most wanted gift” for adults this holiday season, according to the CEA survey released this week.

You may not have noticed as much because of hurricane Sandy, but the tablet announcements are coming fast and furious as the holidays approach. In the last couple of weeks alone, Microsoft started selling the Surface Tablet (and unveiled Windows 8 Phone with Nokia and HTC), Apple introduced the iPad Mini and a new fourth generation iPad, and Google announced the Nexus 10 tablet (and Nexus 4 phone). Don’t forget about Amazon, too, which is a shopping powerhouse during the holidays, pimping the Kindle Fire HD on its home page for $199.

The lower-priced tablets from Google and Amazon will propel tablet adoption more than ever over the holidays. I’m still flabbergasted at Apple’s numbers for a device that isn’t affordable for many: 84 million iPads sold so far around the world. “To put this in perspective, we sold more iPads than any PC manufacturer sold of their entire lineup,” Apple CEO Tim Cook explained last month. But the lower end of the market will start gobbling up tablets, too, and that unbelievable tablet growth curve will continue.

As we’ve written before, this second screen explosion is setting up a phenomenal opportunity for startups, technology giants and media companies to engage with TV viewers like never before. Because before long, just about everyone will own a tablet. Since 85% of US tablet owners use their tablets while watching TV, according to Nielsen, the couch computer has arrived. And the old-fashioned remote control, well, will be “lost” forever.