Local apps, content to determine tablet future

Media tablet shipment in Asia-Pacific expected to climb to 9.6 million units by 2014, where future of segment growth will depend on availability of local applications and content, finds new report.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Media tablet shipment in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, is expected to reach 9.6 million units in 2014, a compound annual growth rate of 65 percent from 1.3 million units in 2009, said IDC.

In a new report released Wednesday, Bryan Ma, IDC's associate vice president for devices and peripherals research in the Asia-Pacific region, noted that the success of media tablets, which are now marketed as multifunction entertainment devices, will "hinge critically on the availability of local applications and content".

The analyst firm defines media tablets as devices in tablet form factors with 7- to 12-inch color displays, powered by ARM-based processors, and running "lightweight operating systems" such as Apple iOS or Google Android OS.

"Media tablets are certainly the talk of the town today, but the next year or so will be critical for the category's evolution as early adopters figure out what they really need a media tablet for and in what kind of scenario," said Ma.

"Simple Web surfing and gaming apps could still provide enough of a value proposition to allow the category to move forward here [in Asia-Pacific]," he said, adding that the lack of e-book content compared with Western countries will not be a hindrance.

Although positioned as a device that sits between smartphones and portable PCs, Ma noted that media tablets will not be replacing either. This view was echoed by industry watchers in a previous ZDNet Asia report.

Instead, media tablets will complement PCs as media consumption devices, seamlessly sharing content using mobile phones, said Ma.

While the "first wave" of media tablets is characterized by the Apple iPad, IDC noted that the market will see future efforts from both PC and mobile phone makers.

Despite the predicted growth in shipment, significant challenges still remain for the device, said IDC. For one, hardware makers appear uncertain about choosing between Intel's x86 platform and an ARM-based platform, said the analyst firm.

IDC also sees the abundance of operating systems (OS) for the device category as a challenge, noting that this will fragment and impede the development of the market.

Google alone has two different operating systems for the mobile platforms: Android and Chrome OS, although the Internet giant does appear to have things planned out.

Near-term sales of media tablets will be focused on developed markets in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, reported IDC. Toward the end of the forecast period, China and Korea will appear as major opportunities for the devices, the research firm added.

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