The flood of tablet PCs introduced by AsusTek, Acer, MSI, Dell, Kakai and others this week inspired the blogosphere to declare the death of the netbook and the age of the tablet. Clearly Apple’s iPad is selling like hotcakes (if you can find one), but the onslaught of new tablet PCs isn’t causing analysts to change their forecasts just yet.
Many said the devices shown at Computex in Taipei and D8 in California this week were not quite ready for prime time. What this new wave illustrates is that tablet PCs will come in a zillion variations: the Asus Eee Pad becomes a laptop when docked and the Dell Streak is arguably a phone as much as a tablet. Kakai’s Kno links two 14.1 inch tablets together but is really an eReader.
“I think what all these tablets tell us is that tablet hardware isn’t the challenging part of a tablet product, but rather tablet software. Most of the exhibited tablets at Computex had working hardware, but the software ranged largely from incomplete to nearly unusable,” said Yankee Group director of Anywhere Consumer Research Carl Howe. “Overall, I think we’re going to have to wait until real shipping tablet products hit the market before we revise any forecasts. But presently, the score looks like Apple: 2 million [for the iPad]; everyone else: much less. For the moment, I don’t see that score getting any less uneven any time soon.”
Gartner is holding fast to its forecast of 10.5 million global tablet sales this year. “I think the flurry of tablets announced at Computex will largely have minimal impact on the tablet market this year. Most are based on Windows 7 and we believe that the Windows 7 UI is poorly suited to use on a tablet as it does not lend itself to fingertip control in a usable fashion,” said Industries Research VP Van Baker.
As for the impact on eReaders, at least some analysts say the two markets will coexist. “I think EBRs [electronics book readers] and tablets are not necessarily arch enemies and will co-exist for some time,” said anlayst Norbert Hildebrand of Insight Media.
This week Asus showed a 12″ Eee Pad EP121 tablet that can dock with a keyboard to become a laptop. It runs Windows 7, has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and claims a 10-hour battery life. There’s also a 10 inch, lighter weight Eee Pad EP101TC that will sell for $399 to $449 said USA Today. Also shown was an Asus e-notepad that serves as both an eReader and note-taking device, with a built-in camera that will let the user grab screenshots of lecture slides to sell for $199 to $299, said the AP. The device also turns pages faster than on many eReaders.
MSI is expected to release a 10-inch touchscreen tablet the second half of this year for around $500. The tablet may have some advantages over the iPad including full HD video at 1080p resolution versus the iPad’s 720p video says and possibly offer some more notebook friendly features, said Tom’s Hardware citing Ubergizmo and Digitimes.
We learned Dell’s already announced 7-inch Streak tablet (or smartphone depending on your point of view) will get a price tag around $500 at Dell.com although it may be offered for less by individual carriers, according to the The New York Times.
Also HP is planning a tablet as is Samsung
As for the decline of netbooks, Gartner estimates mini notebooks will drop to 13.9 percent of the laptop market in 2014 from 18.6 percent in 2010. Conversely, tablet PC sales will soar by 57 each year during the same period, said IDC, according to Ciol.com.
Top photo: Asus 12″ Eee Pad EP121
Bottom photo: Asus e-notebook eReader