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Suppliers Rushing To Grab Tablet PC Gold, Starting At CES

1/06/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS — With predictions of a booming market
for tablet PCs in 2011, dozens of suppliers are rushing
to enter the category or expand their selections during
International CES this week.

The Yankee Group forecasts that U.S. retail sales
of tablets will grow in 2011 by 40 percent in units this
year to 10.8 million, which is why there will be plenty of
buzz at CES about this category.

Companies entering the U.S. market at CES include
e-reader supplier Aluratek, Coby, Cydle, Enspert,
Lenovo, Naxa, Noah, Sungale, Toshiba,
Vizio and iStation, which is showing a glasses-free
3D model.

For its part, Lenovo said it would launch consumer
and business tablets at CES, but details were unavailable
at press time.

Companies that announced their first products late
in 2010 — including ViewSonic and Creative Labs —
will show their products for the first time to the industry
at large.

For their part, other tablet companies are expanding
their selection, including Augen and Digital Gadgets,
which markets under the licensed Sylvania name.

About 35 companies will show tablet products or
prototypes at the show, Yankee Group analyst Dmitriy
Molchanov said.

Plenty of formats and features will be available. Most
of the tablets on display will use the Android OS; some
will come with embedded ATSC-M/H (Mobile/Handheld)
DTV tuners to turn them into mobile TV sets, and
some will feature glasses-free 3D.

A handful of those products will include embedded
ATSC-M/H (Mobile Handheld) DTV reception. They’re
in the Cydle and Enspert booths.

For iPad tablets lacking ATSC-M/H tuner, Valups
plans second-quarter U.S. shipments of the Tivizen
30-pin dongle for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.
It incorporates ATSC-M/H DTV tuner to deliver programming
to the Apple devices’ displays. The dongle
is targeted to retail for $99.

The products will enter a market that, although
growing rapidly, is smaller than the numbers suggest
— at least for the suppliers launching products here.
That’s because, in 2011, Strategy Analytics forecasts
that Apple will maintain 75 percent share of U.S. retail
unit sales and 78 percent retail dollar share.

The potential for suppliers other than Apple to expand
their combined share will grow, however, because
of what Yankee’s Molchanov said is Apple’s
ongoing strategy in computing devices of maintaining
a premium position and high margins at the expense
of market share.

However the brand shares shake out, tablet demand
will remain strong, said Strategy Analytics analyst Peter
King, because consumers are “impressed by the
footprint together with the innovative and compelling
user experience, particularly for browsing and media
consumption.”

In addition, he said, the tablet “is a real alternative”
for consumers who would have previously bought a
netbook to access the Internet or email but not needing
the productivity applications. For these consumers,
the tablet is “the perfect coffee table solution.”

Although analysts forecast strong unit growth, at
least one is sounding the warning about dollar growth.
Yankee’s Molchanov believes average selling prices
(ASPs) will drop “precipitously over the next couple
of year” because of the sheer number of companies
entering the market and the declining cost of components.

With Android tablets, he noted, the OS is free, and
Marvell Semiconductor has created reference models
to take out the design costs for companies that want
to enter the market.

As a result, Molchanov forecasts 2011 retail-level
unit sales in the U.S. will rise 40 percent to 10.8 million
while dollar volume will grow only 2 percent to $5
billion. In 2015, unit sales will hit 30 million, or almost
4 times that of 2010’s projected 7.7 million, but 2015
dollar sales will reach only $6.8 billion, up only 36 percent
from 2010’s projected $5 billion.

For now, however, suppliers are undeterred. See
story below for details on what a growing number of
tablet suppliers will show.

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