The Tablet Era Arrives

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Last night I put the ballgame on my TV, turned off the sound, pulled on some headphones, and watched a different TV show on my Amazon ( AMZN) Kindle Fire.

Meanwhile, my wife read a succession of books on her Kindle and, in her college dorm, our daughter played with her new Apple ( AAPL) iPad.

The tablet era was supposed to arrive slowly, eMarketer wrote in 2011 but instead it came in with a bang.

The latest reports from market research company IDC tell the tale. Tablet sales up 142% year over year in the first quarter. PC sales down almost 14%.

This doesn't just impact uponpeople in the tech space. It impacts upon every business.

That's because people behave differently when using a tablet. J.D. Power says people are more likely to share tablets than PCs. Tablets are far more likely to be open to browsers than PCs are.

While Apple has been losing tablet share steadily, mainly to Samsung, its customers seem very satisfied, according to the J.D. Power survey. Tablets are increasingly being used for business, not just for pleasure, even though businesses are now less likely to subsidize their purchase, preferring a passive "bring your own device" strategy.

From what I've seen among my own friends and relatives, tablets tend to live in living rooms and bedrooms, not offices. They're picked up to settle arguments with a quick Google search, or by kids bored with TV and parents. Amazon has geared its Kindle user interface to passive media consumption, and it's great for that.

What none of these surveys state explicitly, however -- what needs to be read between the lines -- is how tablets are also replacing TVs.

In the PC era we always saw the TV as the media consumption device, as a passive screen located across the room. But now the tablet is taking on more of that load. We're no longer restricted to consuming what is on cable. We're no longer sitting together around one screen. We can have the whole Internet on our laps. We can be together, but separate.

All this matters a great deal to marketers, according to eMarketer.

Instead of focusing on optimizing desktop searches, the market research company says, you need to focus on tablet searches and mobile searches. These tend to be based on a single default browser, factory-supplied. The power of the tablet manufacturer over the consumer, whether that person is on a Kindle or an iPad or even a Samsung Galaxy Tab, is greater, and you have to hitch yourself to that star.

The eMarketer list of tablet activities is also instructive. Nearly all the top 10 activities are online, with the exception of playing games, reading books or watching video. But these also require an online connection at some point. WiFi is becoming a given, the platform that powers the tablet, that finally makes home life mobile.

Tablets are transforming the way we live, the way we interact with media, and they're changing it at Internet speed.

If your business isn't focused on being a part of this change, it's falling behind. If your investments aren't aligned with this change, they will fall behind, too.

At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.