HTC 'Flyer' Android Tablets Planned for Early 2011: Report

HTC is said to be working on three Android-running "Flyer" tablets. The first will reportedly begin shipping in the United States in March.

HTC is planning to launch three media tablets in the first half of the year, according to reports.

The first model, according to a Jan. 20 report from Taipei-based DigiTimes, is slated to begin shipping in the United States in March. No specs were offered, but Digitimes noted that an unnamed source said the tablet would look like "an enlarged version of HTC's Desire smartphone." It will reportedly also run Android 2.3, and users will be able to upgrade to Android 3.0, or "Honeycomb," when it becomes available.

The language in the report makes it unclear whether the first tablet will be called the "Flyer," or if the trio is part of a Flyer series.

"HTC will launch the Flyer tablets in cooperation with a telecom carrier," DigiTimes added, "aiming to push sales ahead [of] the planned launch of RIM's PlayBook in March and Motorola's Xoom in April."

The second two tablets, running Android 3.0, will reportedly begin shipping to other markets beginning in the second quarter.

The Taiwan-based company rolled out a number of highly successful Android-based smartphones last year, including Sprint's Evo 4G, Verizon's Droid Incredible and T-Mobile's myTouch 4G. It came as little surprise, then, that it should decide-with dozens of other companies-to also create Android-running media tablets.

On Dec. 26, the company filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a trademark on the name "Scribe" -indicating that it was for a handheld electronic device.

IDC program director Will Stofega told Bloomberg at the time, "This will provide an alternative to the iPad. This will compete on pricing and could be as good or better."

Nearly 100 tablets were on display at January's 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, but the Apple iPad, the device that created the market and set the bar, is still the tablet to beat.

According to IDC, 4.8 million tablets shipped globally during the third quarter of 2010, and Apple's iPad accounted for nearly 90 percent of them. During the fourth quarter, Samsung introduced its swiftly selling Galaxy Tab and became the "first tier 1 device vendor to the Android media tablet market," IDC wrote in a Jan. 18 report. During the first quarter of 2011, several new tier-one tablets are expected to join it. Most notable are the Motorola Xoom, running Android 3.0, and the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook, running RIM's BlackBerry Tablet operating system, based on QNX technology.

IDC expects 44.6 million tablets to ship in 2011 and 70.8 million in 2012. Driving growth through 2011 and beyond, it added, will be vendors introducing Android-based tablets, "as well as price and feature competition and strong demand in both the consumer and commercial segments."

Apple, again setting the precedent, has proven that tablets, described by Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa as "good enough devices for those who want to have a second and third connected device for content-consumption usage," can additionally find a place in the enterprise, opening up whole new streams of revenue.

During Apple's first-quarter 2011 earnings call on Jan. 18, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said the iPad is currently being piloted or deployed by "80 percent of the Fortune 100."

HTC introduced its Desire handset, which features a 3.7-inch AMOLED (active-matrix organic LED) touch-screen, at the 2010 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Images of the Desire, as well as the HTC Legend and HD2, can be viewed here.