Tablets take centre stage

Tablets take centre stage

Taiwan show features Apple tablet challengers

The obsession with tablet computing was on full display on Tuesday as Computex, the world’s second-largest computer show, began its annual five-day run in Taipei. The prominence of tablets underscores a dramatic shift under way in the personal computer industry _ and keenly felt in Taiwan, which is home to some of the world’s biggest PC manufacturers  as many consumers opt to buy a tablet rather than a new PC.

Computex will feature more than 50 tablet models, said organiser Taipei Computer Association, with big names including Lenovo Group Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. having their products displayed.

Researchers have predicted slower growth in PC sales this year because of the rising consumer interest in tablets. Gartner Research recently cut its sales growth forecast for global PC sales in 2011 from 15.9 percent to 10.5 per cent. According to IHS iSuppli, world PC shipments declined 0.3 per cent year-on-year to 8.1 million units in the first quarter of 2011, with sales by No 3-ranked Acer plunging 20 per cent.

Many analysts say it may take two or three years before mobile device software from Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. can catch up with iPads.

 Research company IDC says Apple Inc. had a 73 per cent share of the tablet market in the last quarter of 2010. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. was a distant second with 17 per cent. It said 2010 tablet sales totaled 18 million units. IDC expects Apple to account for 70-80 per cent of 2011 tablet sales that it predicts will reach 50 million units.
Besides tablets, Computex will also feature corporate and home servers and other cloud-based computing equipment and services, a sector Taiwanese firms have recently entered to make up for shortfalls in PC sales.

The world’s top contract laptop manufacturer, Taiwan-based Quanta Computer Co., is among those producing servers for global firms such as Google.

Cloud computing involves running applications in web browsers. The cloud allows users to store and retrieve data over the Internet whenever it is needed, instead of saving it on their own computers.

At least 10 of the tablet models to be shown at Computex are powered by Intel Corp.’s new Atom chip, the US technology giant’s first microprocessor designed for tablets. Intel has moved into the fast growing market now dominated by chips using designs by UK-based ARM Holdings.

The new Atom “delivers improved video playback, fast Internet browsing and longer battery life,” Navin Shenoy, general manager of Intel’s Asia-Pacific region, said in an emailed statement.

There is “a tremendous amount of experimentation going on in the industry,” Shenoy said. Tablets will not replace PCs, he said, noting the strong PC demand in Asia and emerging markets.

Taiwanese high-tech firms are also entering the mobile device market pressured by Apple. Taiwan’s top two PC vendors, Acer Inc. and AsusTek Computer Inc., are using Computex to display a range of touch-screen tablet computers.