HOME Technology Dec 2010
Tablet creates new market
Mobile multimedia showcase
“The all-in-one tablet is already taking a toll on other markets including e-readers, gaming devices and mini-notebooks with worldwide unit sales of around 54.8 million next year, escalating to 208 million in 2014,” US analyst, Gartner.

The phenomenon that is tablet computing has created a disruptive ripple across the struggling PC market while potential buyers weigh up the new offerings against netbooks, laptops and even the latest smartphones.

The hugely successful Apple iPad which sold around 8 million units since its launch in April and the subsequent stream of competing devices has opened up a new category, although artists and animators might argue they’ve been using graphics tablets for ages.

We mustn’t forget the Windows Tablet launched in 2001 which was a touchscreen and pen-based PC device without the current breakthrough gesture recognition to zoom in and out or reposition the screen image from vertical to horizontal

Rather than a business device Apple targeted the iPad primarily at consumers with media consumption, web browsing and communication as the prime focus.

It was the stylish design and user friendly iPhone touch screen technology that generated instant fascination for the iPad along with the instant application base. From the outset the iPad had more than 200,000 software solutions that could be ported across from the iPhone and they keep coming.

Unprecedented uptake

Bernstein Research claims Apple’s iPad is selling faster any other non-phone technology including the DVD player and its own iPhone. If the pace continues its thought tablets could surpass even gaming machines, becoming the fourth largest consumer electronics category trailing only TVs, smartphones and notebook computers.

US analyst Gartner Group estimates 19.5 million iPads and other tablets will be sold worldwide by the end of this year and nearly triple that in 2011 as they hit the sweet spot for both consumers and business customers.

It says the success the all-in-one tablet is already taking a toll on other markets including e-readers, gaming devices and mini-notebooks. Gartner expects worldwide unit sales of around 54.8 million next year, escalating to 208 million in 2014.

Research firm Strategy Analytics (SA) said the total tablet market grew to 4.4 million units to September, up from 3.5 million in the previous quarter and the user friendly design was creating a multi-billion dollar global business.

Apple iPads controlled 95 percent of the emerging market but conceded the competition was moving fast.

 Rival handset and PC makers were moving rapidly to occupy the new category embracing Google’s Android, Microsoft Windows 7, Intel and Nokia’s new MeeGo, Hewlett-Packard's webOS and RIM's Blackberry mobile operating systems.

Competitive pricing

Apple’s entry level wifi-enabled 16Gb iPad sells for around $814 although adding 3G capability takes it just over $1000; a 64Gb version with both connections is about $1380. Rival products available locally include
Samsung’s 380 gram Galaxy Tab, with mobile video conferencing and a video chat function over its 7 inch touch screen selling for around $1000.

The Blackberry PlayBook is more business focused with web browsing, multitasking and high performance multimedia alongside advanced security. On the way are 5 inch and 7 inch models of Dell's Streak which double as a mobile phone with front-facing camera for video conferencing. Toshiba, Acer, Asus and LG also have tablets in the wind in response to Apple’s innovation.

While Hewlett-Packard’s 8.9 inch multi-touch Windows-based Slate, and a more consumer focused tablet based on the webOS software it acquired from Palm earlier this year are available in the US, there are no current plans for local release.

The new tablet computers are likely to be seen as wifi enabled notebook companions rather than replacements, ideal for mobile multimedia presentations. All eyes are now on PC chipset manufacturers Intel and AMD to see how they will respond to the challenge.

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