Whatever you prefer to call the newest category of portables-smartbooks,
media tablets, iPad clones or touchscreen tablets-the astounding popularity of
these devices speaks to the societal sea change under way in how we use
computers and consume content. Yesterday's monolithic herd of passive
TV-watching couch potatoes has splintered into diverse but intricately
interconnected communities of mobile interactive-content consumers. Their
voracious appetite for new media perfectly matches the tablet form factor and
the touch interface that defines this rising computer class, which inhabits the
space between the netbook and the smartphone.
"The way I look at it, there is a rush to the center going on," said Jeff
Orr, principal analyst for mobile devices at ABI Research (Oyster Bay, N.Y.).
"[There is a shift] from the desktop to the laptop to the netbook on the left
side, and on the right side you've got the smaller handsets all getting bigger
and merging with personal media players and personal navigation devices. All
these devices are rushing to the center-to the media tablet-but each consumer
will have different requirements, which opens all kinds of opportunities for
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) mockup of a touchscreen tablet for
eight- to 10-year-olds targets a $199 price point, includes a docking station
and accepts microSD cards.
touchscreen tablet designed for the SCADproject at a price point of $399 targets
the 10-to-14 age group, accommodating a young user's smaller
Indeed, over the next 18 months, a range of touchscreen tablets will emerge
for every conceivable demographic. The prototypes and concept designs shown at
the Computex show in Taipei, Taiwan offered a preview (see story, page 22).
The market size for this rising category of computer is a black hole-much as
the PC market was at its debut-since every person on the planet is a potential
customer, provided manufacturers can hit the right price point. Market watcher
iSuppli Corp. (El Segundo, Calif.) predicts that touchscreen tablet sales,
spurred by Apple's iPad, will grow more than 500 percent this year, rising to
more than 11 million units from less than 2 million units in 2009, and will
exceed 71 million units by 2013.
Others say iSuppli's numbers are far too conservative.
"The PC era is peaking, and products like the iPad are going to figure big in
the future-really big," said Glen Burchers, global director of consumer-segment
marketing at Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Austin, Texas). "The ability of these
products to do gaming, for instance, is going to be one of the biggest success
factors. For example, there was $500 million worth of 'Call of Duty 2' sold
during its first week, and other popular games like 'Halo' are now aiming to
best $600 million. These are numbers that can't be ignored.
"Add to that the fact that even toddlers are using the iPad today; in fact,
25 percent of educational iPhone apps were designed for preschool. Then add in
the middle-school age groups, who spend all day texting each other-instead of
passing notes like we did-and teenagers who want similar interface capabilities,
but with style options that personalize their devices, and it becomes difficult
to overestimate the potential of this market."