Apple iPad Driving New Interest in Tablet PCs, Says Report

Thanks to Apple's iPad, ABI Research expects the media tablet market to hit 4 million units by year's end and to climb to an annual 57 million units by 2015. In addition to Apple, HP, Dell, Google, Lenovo and several lesser-known vendors are all looking to benefit.

With Apple's Jan. 27 introduction of the Apple iPad, the iPhone maker revived an industry, ABI Research said in a Feb. 2 report, predicting that four million media tablets will ship this year. By 2015, the researcher expects that figure to swell to 57 million units annually.
"Apple's iPad is not the first media tablet, but it does help define this new device category," Jeff Orr, an analyst with ABI Research, said in a statement.
ABI's prediction that the Apple will ship 4 million iPads by the end of 2010 is well below the 10 million that Apple is rumored to expect to sell in 2010, and is additionally below estimates from other analysts.
"The main focus of media tablets is entertainment. A tablet will not replace a laptop, netbook or mobile phone," Orr continued, "but will remain an additional premium or luxury product for wealthy industrialized markets for at least several years."
ABI defines a tablet as having, at minimum, a 5- to 11-inch touch screen, Wi-Fi connectivity and gaming capabilities. The iPad is certainly not alone in fitting that bill, as a number of manufacturers - both top PC vendors such as Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard, and lesser-known vendors, such as Notion Ink and ICD, with an understandable eye on Apple's coattails - introduced models at the International CES 2010, ABI points out.
Google is also in on the action, as images of a tablet running Google's Chrome OS have surfaced, and at the World Economic Forum, in Switzerland, Michael Dell was reportedly showing off the Android-based Dell Mini 5 tablet.
"The biggest challenge faced by the media tablet category is how they will reach the market and generate awareness among potential buyers," Orr said.
"New entrants to this market are at a disadvantage since they lack the retail relationships and network operator agreements already built by the more mature vendors. Surprisingly, Apple may have done them a favor by raising the public profile of the whole media tablet category," Orr said.
Anticipating the market's growth, ABI announced Feb. 2 that it has launched a Media Tablets study to better define the product category, discuss market drivers and inhibitors and offer information about distribution channels, pricing, availability and more.