The face of computing may be undergoing a massive change, and tablet PCs appear to be at the heart of it.
"There's a fundamental shift in the computing industry, which is moving to being cloud-based and mobile," Maribel Lopez, founder and principal analyst at Lopez Research, told TechNewsWorld.
With its iPad, has a commanding lead, but HP (NYSE: HPQ) and other hardware and software makers could give it a run for its money.
Sales Slump? There's a Tablet for That
It seems as though just about every vendor plans to offer a tablet PC. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) on Tuesday showed a tablet design at an investor meeting, and the chipmaker's CEO Paul Otellini told attendees that tablet PCs would see a compound annual growth rate of 73 per cent to 88 per cent.
Annual tablet shipments will hit 50 million to 60 million units by 2014, Otellini also predicted.
In January, Intel introduced its new Moorestown processor architecture at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is a system-on-a-chip consisting of an Intel Atom processor combined with graphics processing, video and memory controller functions. It's aimed at taking on ARM, a leading processor in the mobile space.
The iPad, for example, runs on a proprietary Apple SOC called the \u201cA4,\u201d which is based on a tweaked ARM Cortex-A9.
Nvidia is also expected to announce an entry into the tablet space.
"Nvidia will have a lot to talk about at their analyst day this coming Monday (May 17) and at Computex in Taipei," John Jacobs, director of notebook market research at DisplaySearch, told TechNewsWorld.
Computex, one of the world's largest computer industry trade shows, will be held in Taipei, Taiwan June 1-5.
Players in the Tablet World
HP, which had earlier this year offered various sneak-peeks at a so-called Slate tablet running Windows 7, apparently killed that particular development around the time in bought Palm (Nasdaq: PALM) in April. It has reportedly renamed the device "Hurricane" and will run it on Palm's webOS instead. That device is rumored to be launched later this year.
Elsewhere, Verizon said recently it is teaming up with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to working on a tablet. Meanwhile, Samsung may roll out a PC tablet as early as July.
BlackBerry maker RIM is getting in on the action too, according to the Boy Genius Report. It will offer a device with an 8.9-inch screen with Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, will focus on multimedia, and is scheduled for launch in December, according to the report.
Singapore's Fusion Garage offers the JooJoo Tablet, a device over which it fought a lawsuit with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who had planned to release it as the CrunchPad.
The Archos 7 home tablet is available for pre-order in the United States, and Toshiba, Asus and other manufacturers are expected to offer tablets running Android.
Indian firm Norton Ink is working on the Adam, which will run on Nvidia's Tegra2 chip and has a PixelQi screen that switches between LCD and E-ink-like display modes for ultra-long battery life. Several manufacturers in China also have Windows 7 tablets for sale in local markets.
The New Face of Computing
"One of the biggest trends industry-wide in high-tech now is remote access and portability," Laura DiDio, principal at ITIC, told TechNewsWorld.
"We'd predicted sales of about six million units this year a few months back, and we'll probably revise that up substantially," DisplaySearch's Jacobs said. "We think tablets are going to cannibalize the netbook and e-reader markets. Those markets will keep growing, but not as fast as they should."
There's money to be made in the tablets market, which is why manufacturers are flocking to it.
"The world's going mobile, but computer manufacturers just aren't sure which mobile devices people will be using the most, and nobody wants to be locked out of the marketplace," Lopez Research's Lopez pointed out.
Taking on the iPad?
For the near future, most of the other vendors won't pose a threat to the iPad, DisplaySearch's Jacobs said. "All those tier-two guys don't pose any competition for the iPad because they don't have the apps and they don't have the higher average selling price or the build quality," he explained.
Those tier-two players include Samsung and LG; tier-one players include HP, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), Acer, Toshiba and Lenovo, Jacobs said.
"What makes the iPad different is Apple's ability to present its products as magical," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "Few companies can do that well."
However, Android devices may pose a challenge to the iPad, if the success of Verizon's Droid smartphone is any indication, Enderle pointed out.
Possibly the biggest threat to the iPad may come from HP.
"The HP Slate will probably be the closest to mimicking what the iPad does, with the use of the webOS," DisplaySearch's Jacobs said.
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