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Tablet PC frenzy hits a new high

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New models set to storm market after the hugely successful iPad2 launch.

The iPad2 is now in stores in India and 25-year-old Rachit K Pandeya is one of those fanboys who waited patiently outside an Apple premium reseller’s shop in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, to get his unit. “I hadn’t bought any and was happy with my HP notebook but this second-generation device was something I was waiting for ever since its launch early this year,” he says while uncovering his new 64GB iPad2. Proudly fiddling with his prized buy, Pandeya adds, “I have used tablet products from other brands too – some of my friends bought them – but I had my heart set on the iPad2 after seeing Steve Jobs demonstrate its features in his keynote speech.”

The growing set of brand loyalists in India for Apple seems to have made the company reconsider its delayed launch approach in the country. The iPad2 is the first product from the company that was launched within 50 days after its launch in the US. Earlier, the iPhone 4 and the first generation iPad were launched after delays of nine months and 10 months respectively.

A newly-appointed sales executive underlines that he will use the iPad2 at work, “while I am on sales calls at clients’ offices to impress them with my powerpoint pitches delivered through the iPad2.”

Companies like Sony, Dell, Samsung, Lenovo, Research in Motion and Acer, among others, might not have a followership in India like Apple’s but they are not letting up their play in the tablet PC market yet. The notebook segment, the bread-and-butter sector for players, had a share of 16 per cent while netbooks command a 12 per cent share in the seven million notebook market.

According to various estimates, tablet PCs could touch the one million unit mark in India in 2011-12 but Vishal Tripathi of Gartner believes, “Until the tablet PC prices drop to about Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000, it will not become a mass market device. Going ahead, we expect tablet PCs, netbooks and notebooks to co-exist in the Indian market.”

Samsung, the maker of the Galaxy Tab, has been in hot pursuit of Apple. With three models of Galaxy Tab, including a 10-inch screen PC, the company is confident it can capture a 40 per cent share in the Indian tablet PC segment this year. Ranjit Yadav, country head (mobile & IT), Samsung, says, “will offer a diverse portfolio in the tablet market this year. With tablets starting at Rs 24,000, we believe Samsung is positioned ahead of many in the market and will be aggressively marketing its devices through mobile and retail outlets.”

Computers accounted for about 33 per cent of the Indian consumer electronics spending in 2010, as per a BMI forecast. Acer is set to carve out its share too. This month, Saji Kumar, head (product management), Acer, will unveil three new tablet PCs for the Indian consumer. He says, “We are confident that our 10-inch tablet PC – which will be available in both Windows and Android platforms – will attract buyers more than the competition.” The Acer tablets will sport price tags in the range of Rs 30,000 and Rs 35,000. Acer’s dual OS approach for its tablet PCs coupled with its distribution network that includes 85 Acer Malls (exclusive outlets) and 180 retail points may just work for the brand in attracting the crowds from Tier-I and Tier-II cities.

From the competition’s perspective, ignoring Adobe’s Flash and backing HTML5 may act against the iPad, as over 80 per cent of today’s online videos use Flash. Competition, on the other hand, has embraced Adobe Flash, a multimedia platform that adds animation and interactivity to web pages.

Then there are players like Sony, which claims to have sold 120,000 notebooks in India in FY2009-10 and expects to sell 250,000 notebooks by FY 2010-11. Tadato Kimura, GM (Marketing), India, reasons, “As the utility value of both the tablet PCs and notebooks is totally different, the launch of tablet PCs will not affect the notebook market.” The company recently unveiled its first tablet computer, following Samsung Electronics, a year after the Apple’s iPad spurred a surge in demand for the device. Sony’s S1 model will feature a 9.4-inch liquid-crystal display, as well as front and rear cameras and will run on Google’s Android operating system for tablets.

The only thing that remains unaddressed on the PC vendors’ wish-list is to position their brands the way Apple has among users like Anu Agarwal, who runs her own business in Mumbai. Her two sons have made their home a mini Apple store, complete with a 21-inch iMac and Macbook PCs. “I find it tough to check e-mail and attachments with my BlackBerry. With the iPad2, I can read mails on a bigger screen without being bogged down with a heavy laptop-like device,” she says, while walking into the Apple iStore in Mumbai to book herself an iPad2.

With inputs from Katya Naidu

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