Global shipments of tablet computers in the first quarter more than doubled from a year earlier, but experts said hardware specifications would be key if the devices are to replace PCs.
The latest report released on Thursday by market researcher International Data Corp (IDC) showed that global tablet shipments grew 142.4 percent year-on-year to 49.2 million in the first quarter, which surpassed that of the entire first half of last year.
IDC said that strong market demand for smaller tablets, such as Google Inc and Asustek Computer Inc’s (華碩) co-developed Android-powered, 7-inch Nexus 7 and Apple Inc’s 7.9-inch iPad Mini tablets, was the key growth driver.
“For light users of notebooks and desktops, who only use computers to surf the Internet, listen to music and watch movies, tablets are more suitable as they are cheaper and more portable,” Arthur Liao (廖顯毅), an analyst at Taipei-based Fubon Securities Co (富邦證券), said by telephone yesterday.
For example, the iPad Mini’s screen, which is 1.8 inches smaller than the standard iPad, “shows not only the difference in size, but also the price and weight of the two. Although there is little difference in their hardware specifications, the Mini can be held in one palm, which really matters to users,” Liao said.
As users prefer larger smartphones with 4.7-inch screens or larger, vendors could eventually reduce tablet screens to between 7 inches and 8 inches, Liao said, adding that as tablet users are expected to increasingly use the devices to communicate and consume data, shorter charging times and faster processing capacities would be key.
State-run Hua Nan Securities Co (華南永昌投顧) chairman David Chu (儲祥生) held the same view about the future of tablet computers.
Chu said Samsung Electronics Co’s Galaxy Tab series and Asustek’s FonePad, which are 7-inch tablets that can be used to make telephone calls, could occupy some market share in the tablet market.
However, it “would not be that large” as most tablet users use their devices to search purely for data, songs and movies, rather than make phone calls, Chu said
“Notebook shipments might fall at a single-digit rate from this year, but they could survive in the changing market if properly integrated with tablets and smartphones,” Chu said.
IDC data also showed Apple’s dominance of the tablet market is facing a rising challenge from Android-powered tablet makers, such as Samsung and Asustek. Apple’s market share only improved by 2.2 percentage points to 39.6 percent during the January-to-March period from 37.4 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the data showed.
Samsung maintained a 17.9 percent market share in the first quarter, followed by Asustek at 5.5 percent, Amazon.com Inc at 3.7 percent and Microsoft Corp at 1.8 percent.
Windows and Windows RT-based tablet shipments grew to 1.8 million units, or 3.7 percent of the market, last quarter, Chu said, praising Microsoft’s vision to break into the tablet market while simultaneously upgrading its Office software.
“For office workers and enterprises, the Windows operating system remains important. A detachable integrated Windows-powered PC is advantageous to the company because such a product could benefit both enterprises and everyday consumers,” he said.