BUSINESS, shopping and gaming are the top activities for all tablets, but tablet users' activities differ depending on the operating system, according to research by digital media consultancy Social Nuggets.

The research found that BlackBerry owners were using their tablet predominantly for work - 27% of the time - while Android owners were using their tablets 24% of the time for shopping.

Apple's tablets had the highest usage when it came to games, but they were not far behind BlackBerry when it came to use for work.

Social Nuggets, in assessing its findings, said: "Business, shopping and gaming are three of the most popular activities associated with tablets of all kinds, with business representing the largest application. Consuming information, in the form of books, news, and magazines, also ranks high as a category."

The research raises questions about whether tablets will overtake laptops as business tools.

JWT, one of the world's largest advertising agencies, said that while Apple may continue to demand a premium, manufacturers including Samsung and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion are offering cheaper options and broadening audiences at a rapid rate.

"Tablets are no longer the province of early adopters from the media and tech worlds.

"For college students, for example, tablets are a great way to combine textbooks, notebooks and study aids. And people who use computers primarily for media consumption, e- mail and social networking will see the tablet as a lower-cost alternative to a laptop."

Inkling, an interactive textbook publisher, has secured funding from McGraw-Hill and Pearson to create and license more than 100 textbooks that will be available for the iPad this year . The books use multi-screen touch technology that allows students to interact with the text, highlight and make notes on screen, and send those notes to others.

"If I understand something and my friend doesn't, I can help explain it to her," a freshman told CNBC.com.

JWT said this platform offers a wide range of opportunities to firms wishing to advertise because of how the user embraces the tablet.

"When people pick up their smartphones, they generally have a task in mind - check the time, the weather, e-mail, movie listings. But tablet users are different. They are relaxed and open to suggestion. In short, they're a marketer's dream. Tablet in hand, users swipe and tap in search of a new experience."

Another unique feature of tablets it that although everything about a tablet suggests it is personal, it is actually passed around to family and friends, which gives marketers invaluable entry into households and "makes evangelists out of tablet users, who share brand information with decision makers".

JWT said apps for tablets are of no use unless they are supported. "App stores are crowded, and tablet users have a world of media choices at their fingertips. The only way consumers are going to know (about) your offering is if you ensure they find your app via e-mail, app store promotions, paid media and more. "

benjaminc@bdfm.co.za