The launch of Apple’s iPad in early 2010 has stirred up the long-silent Tablet PC industry and has won it once the attention of the worldwide computer industry. As a result, makers of Netbook and eReader, which have functions overlapping with tablet PC, have the jitters over some ongoing developments which climaxes at this year’s COMPUTEX TAIPEI from June 1 to June 5. It’s here where the latest Tablet PCs, as well as Netbooks and eReaders will be demonstrated and compete for the buyer’s eye. COMPUTEX TAIPEI is not only a stage for computer makers to claim their presences, but also a coveted place to set and see the trends. The PC revolution war waged by Tablet PC will help to top off the 30th-anniversary of COMPUTEX TAIPEI which has grown up with the industry.
Tablet PC’s Strong Growth Momentum
The concept of Tablet PC emerged several years ago, an effort to grab the mobile commercial and consumer markets which lie between NB and smartphones. However, influenced by issues like weight, CPU heat dissipation, short battery life, immature touch input technology, and unpopular wireless networks, Tablet PCs were not widely accepted as expected. The situation continued until Apple revealed iPad, and major brand makers begin to launch related product to heat up the market again. At present, major PC makers including Apple, Lenovo, HP, Asus, and MSI have all introduced Tablet PC products, and Dell, Acer, and Sony have plans to launch related products this year.
Besides functioning as word processors and for networking, the new-generation Tablet PC integrates contents and services of gaming, entertainment, and eBook. For the first time here is a device that has positioned itself as a consumer entertainment device rather than a commercial device. According to Gartner, worldwide shipment of Tablet PCs will comprise less than 1% of current total PC shipments. But ABI Research indicates that the sale of new-generation Tablet PCs will grow 10 times to reach 4 million units this year, and the number will reach 57 million by 2015, becoming a major boost for the worldwide computer industry.
eReaders Go 2 Extremes
In terms of hardware specs, Tablet PC is very similar to eReader, which can also provide eBook download services. It is generally considered that the emergence of Tablet PC will first impact on eReaders. According to the analysis done by Topology Research Institute, though the mainstream gray-scale eReader is good for long-time reading, the ASP of USD 500 is still too high and lacks multimedia browsing, Internet surfing, and word processing functions. If eReader wants to compete with Tablet PCs then it has to lower its price to below US$200. With the same reading experiences of the paperback, eReader at this price has the potential to be considered a home appliance and can differentiate itself from the Tablet PC.
The contents of the eBook include news, magazines, literature novels, and textbooks. It is expected that the market will develop toward two extreme directions. For book fans who want lots of reading, light and low-cost, professional eReader will still be their choices. And, for those who require colorful content or textbook readers, Tablet PC with multi-functions, color display, and touch input support will fit their needs. On the other hand, the widespread usage of Tablet PC may speed up the development and commercialization of color epaper.
Soft Power to Boost Netbook Competitiveness
Tablet PC is also a respectable rival to Netbook, which has the same functions of mobile Internet, multimedia entertainment, and basic word processing, which comes at a similar prices and display size. Though the two major Netbook makers, Acer and Asus, are optimistic about the outlook of the Netbook market, it is believed that Tablet PC will still have impact on the Netbook shipments.
The new trend of Tablet PCs triggered by Apple’s iPad indicates that “soft power” (the combines software and service), will replace low-cost manufacturing capability becoming the growth momentums to drive consumer demand and hardware development. The profits made from applications will be more lucrative than those from hardware contract manufacturing. Take Apple as an example, its online App Store created USD 1.5 billion revenue in 2009. Such a case offers a good strategic roadmap for Netbook makers to follow in competing with Tablet PCs.
Taiwan PC Makers Take the Lead
As the center of worldwide PC industry, Taiwan makers surely will keep abreast of the latest trend of Tablet PC. So far, Asus and MSI have introduced Tablet PC, and Acer will also launch new products. Regarding the deployments of component makers, epaper module companies such as PVI (Prime View International), AUO, and Delta Electronics will not be impacted by Tablet PC in the short term. In fact it is expected that they will speed up the development of color technologies. Netbook makers may also improve product quality through design innovations or by allying with non-IT vendors. Additionally, the electronic components used in Tablet PC are very similar to those used in traditional PCs. Therefore, they will benefit from the new-wave of Tablet PC developments. In looking at the iPad for example, we find that except for processor and software, most of the other components are provided by Taiwan makers, such as PCB from Compeq and Gold Circuit Electronics, casing from Foxconn, touch panel from Wintek and Sintek, and EMS service from Foxconn.
It is expected that Tablet PC will be one of the most popular products that attract everyone’s attentions at the 30th anniversary of COMPUTEX TAIPEI. Many are also anxious to see how Netbook and eReader makers will respond to the competition. It’s at COMPUTEX TAIPEI where the struggle will come out in full play, where buyers and exhibitors go all out to score the best.