Tablet strategy vital for overall growth

Tablets now key driver for PC makers, industry watchers note, but add strategies around this device category should factor in other existing or emerging computing trends.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

The rise of tablet devices, spurred relentlessly by Apple's iPad, has led many IT vendors to reconsider their business strategies and incorporate the device category within their overall business plans, note industry watchers.

Ng Tian Beng, vice president of South Asia and Korea at Dell's consumer, small and medium business unit, for one, said that tablets are a "rapidly growing market that technology companies cannot afford to ignore". Citing figures from Forrester Research, he stated that by 2014, more consumers will use tablets over netbooks and in 2015, the device category will constitute 23 percent of PC unit sales.

A Motorola Mobility spokesperson, too, said the company "acknowledges" the the worldwide tablet market growth, which is why it launched its Android Honeycomb-powered Xoom tablet.

Their observations were corroborated by Dickie Chang, senior market analyst at IDC Asia-Pacific. In an e-mail, he said more consumers are "clearly excited" to get a new tablet and this current market fervor is similar to when wireless notebooks and smartphones were first released.

According to Chang, vendors should utilize tablets as their main hardware strategy for the near future. He reasoned that the more consumers are exposed to and are familiar with tablets, the stronger the ecosystem would be, which in turn would attract more people onboard.

Dell's Ng, however, argued that while tablets are currently a consumer favorite, IT vendors' hardware strategies must "go beyond just the tablet" and encompass different aspects of the industry.

"The industry today is at a critical inflection point and we are seeing a redefining of what customers expect from technology," he noted. "People are no longer focused on the hardware or technology itself, but more on the experience. [In this regard,] tablets can go hand-in-hand with other solutions to provide consumers with a comprehensive solution that meets their needs."

Ng also acknowledged Apple's role in promoting the device category, saying that it has "indeed performed admirably". That said, he noted the tablet market is huge and many different categories exists within this segment.

To succeed in this market, the quality of applications for the device is important, he added. These apps must allow for the "seamless integration of one's personal and professional lives", Ng explained.

For example, Dell's Streak device is being used as a platform for the "Learning on the Move" app, a location-based app that will deliver National Education modules to students in Singapore, Ng noted.

"The demand for such devices has made its way into different industries which are seeing the value of such devices," he said. "We do not consider this a change in direction, but rather an enhancement of our overall strategy."

A Lenovo spokesperson agreed. He said there's always a surge of activity when new technology comes to market, although tablets have been around for about 10 years now.

Additionally, he said the industry will continue to be a "multi-device world" where tablets are one of the form factors, not the "dominant one". PCs such as ultra-thin notebooks or all-in-ones will remain the access device of choice among users for content creation, he added.

Just how high tablets should be on the corporate agenda of IT is still a subject of contention, even at the cost of losing top executives. In January, AMD's Dirk Meyer was forced to resign because the chipmaker's board had grown concerned that his seeming lack of motivation and interest in expanding the company's reach into such mobile devices is hurting the company's future prospects.

Similarly, Acer's Gianfranco Lanci threw in the towel in February because of boardroom tussles over how the company was growing. According to a report by ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET, the former CEO had quit because he wanted to move more aggressively into the tablet market, but it wasn't a view held by the other board members.

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