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Dave Stevinson, VIP

by Stuart Wilson, Friday 8 April 2011

Dave Stevinson (DS), recently appointed sales director at distributor VIP, looks at the competitive landscape in the tablet sector.

With the recent launch of Apple’s iPad 2, Stevinson questions whether its launch spells doom for the tablet market, especially as other manufacturers are struggling to offer a credible rival:

DS: “When Apple launched the original iPad last year, analysts were predicting that sales would range from five to eight million, and the iPad’s success was likely to fuel a plethora for tablet computers from all the notebook brands. How wrong they were.

In fact, Apple sold nearly 15 million iPads in 2010, blowing away analysts’ estimates. But as for it fueling success for the market as a whole, research from IDC shows that nearly 17 million media tablets were shipped worldwide in 2010, leaving a mere 12% share for a handful of manufacturers who were either able or brave enough to take on the heavyweight.

Apple just seemed to have got it right, completely reinvigorating the tablet market in the process. Whilst manufacturers of other tablets are still struggling to produce a credible rival, Apple has already moved on to their next generation product: the iPad 2.

Without the critical economies of scale rival manufacturers do not have the power that they used to, even Far East companies are unable to produce a comparable tablet at a price point anywhere near the Apple iPad.

Where should the channel turn?

While most tablets will still target the consumer, I think there will be opportunities in the channel by targeting the enterprise market with business-targeted devices. More importantly, the increasing adoption of consumer technology in the enterprise will lead to widespread tablet adoption for business use.

There are emerging roles for tablets within the business environment – where specific issues like security and compatibility with Wintel software are paramount. I have witnessed specific uses; such as training, video conferencing and in retail, showing customers product demonstrations or price comparisons.

It’s certainly where Apple’s competitors are trying their luck. Research in Motion have announced the launch of the PlayBook, a Blackberry tablet, which goes on sale in the US on April 19 for US$499, which is the same US price as an entry-level iPad. Cisco is also expected to release details of its tablet, the Cius - another tablet targeted solely at the business market.

The 2011 line of tablets aimed at business users will see evolution in a few key areas:

• Speed. Dual-core processing will take hold and eventually dominate. Dual-core processors could bring full 1080p high-definition video, 3D gaming and 16-megapixel cameras to tablets.

• Size. One obvious difference between RIM Playbook and Apple iPad 2 is the size: Playbook is significantly smaller, 7.6 inches tall and 5.1 inches wide, compared with the iPad 2, which measures 9.5 inches tall and 7.3 inches wide. RIM’s playbook is significantly smaller, although the iPad is thinner. The majority of new tablets launched in 2011 will be in the 7 or 10-inch category, with a size to suit almost everyone.

• More apps. As more apps come out for the iPad and Android devices, tablets will replace most functions currently done with laptops. They will become more portable and offer a lighter, more portable solution than a laptop. Apps will be company or industry specific.

• Cameras. Particularly front facing cameras capable of video conferencing. Enabling businesses to make use of video conferencing.

Apple has certainly created and dominated a new category of personal computing. But before we all leave them to it, there are major opportunities in the enterprise market where businesses require specific application software backed with enhanced security, something the iPad 2 might fail to deliver."


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