iPad kicks off media tablet revolution, next device will have camera

4 Feb 2010

Apple has done other computer manufacturers a huge favour. The release of its iPad tablet computer is set to kick-start tablet computer sales which are set to rise from 4 million devices sold in 2010 to 57 million devices by 2015.

The high-profile launch by Apple last week of its long-rumoured iPad tablet computing device highlights the real start of a new market segment for media tablets that according to analysts at ABI Research will see 4 million units shipped this year. By 2015, shipments are forecast to reach about 57 million annually.

“Apple’s iPad is not the first media tablet,” said senior analyst Jeff Orr. “But it does help define this new device category. The main focus of media tablets is entertainment. A tablet will not replace a laptop, netbook or mobile phone, but will remain an additional premium or luxury product for wealthy industrialised markets for at least several years.”

ABI Research’s definition of a media tablet

ABI Research defines media tablets as having a touchscreen interface, 5-11 inches in size, with Wi-Fi internet connectivity and video and gaming capabilities. Other features are available in some media tablets.

A number of other tablets were announced at the International CES 2010. Players in this new field fall into two camps: traditional computer vendors, such as Lenovo, HP and Asus; and a number of new, smaller vendors, such as ICD and Notion Ink.

The vendors in the latter category are often quite small and little known, and they see this market as an entry point. Apple is one part of the mix, said Orr, and will probably be a fairly sizeable player.

“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 favour by raising the public profile of the whole media tablet category,” Orr added.

In related news, rumours are circulating that Apple is already at work on the next generation of iPad devices that will sport a camera.

Mission: Repair, a blog by an Apple repair shop, said it has received a shipment of spare parts which include iPad frames with a space for a digital camera above the screen.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Apple’s iPad tablet

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years