Is Tablet the Gen-X PC?

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Rolling back to the first official launch of iPad by none other than Apple in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom on May 28, 2010, undoubtedly created a stir in the Indian market. For serving the needs of the masses, the company launched its tablet device in India for the first time on January 28, 2011.

Since its launch, iPad has become the center of attraction among all the 3 generations of masses. With its unique features and advanced technology, it serves as a platform for audiovisual media, including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, and web content. Moreover, its size and weight falls between those of contemporary smartphones and laptop computers. The iPad runs the same operating system as the iPod Touch and iPhone-and can run its own applications, as well as iPhone applications. Without modification, and with the exception of websites, it also runs on programs approved by Apple and distributed via its online stores.


But the fact arising here is the decline in the PC market, which is overshadowed by iPad off late. According to a Gartner research, the PC market has continued to decline after delays in refresh cycles and increased purchases of tablet devices. The latest figures from Gartner show that global PC sales fell by 1.1% in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same in 2010. On the other hand, HP, Dell and Acer, all experienced a fall in PC sales. Acer's shipments fell 12% this quarter. HP maintained the top spot despite experiencing a decline of 3%. Dell shipments fell 2% for the first time in six consecutive quarters. Meanwhile, Lenovo continued to grow by 16%. Gartner is investigating if the decline of PC sales will have a long-term effect on the PC market. The slowdown of PC sales could affect businesses, as was demonstrated when netbook PC sales fell by 25.6% compared to last year.


Talking on the subject, Zakir Hussain Rangwala from Alladin Multimedia, Mumbai, says, "PC has its own value, worth and productivity. No doubt, tablet is a major tool, but replacement of PC is impossible. I don't think anyone will replace PC for a tablet, unless he is a hardcore surfer. Nowadays, there is a whole new breed of people interested in tablets and this will add as a second device for us in the market, besides netbooks."

It seems that despite the availability of consumer PCs at low prices, demand for computing products in traditional form factors has dipped to a certain extent. Instead, consumers have turned their attention to media tablets and other consumer electronics, and with the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device or simply held back from buying PCs. "I feel that the impact of iPad is not expected right now, especially from the enterprise market. The SOHO market is diverting its attention towards the tab and it also seems to be consumer-friendly. Computing has become a firm reality, exemplified first by mini notebooks and now media tablets. Macroeconomic forces can explain some of the ebb and flow of the PC business, but the real question PC vendors have to think hard about, is how to enable a compelling user experience that can justify spending on the added horsepower," adds Bimal Raj, CEO, Allied Digital.


According to IDC report, consumers held back from purchasing new machines and shifted their focus to tablet computers. IDC had projected an increase of 1.5% in the PC business as compared to the last year. The major reason which failed to offset the ongoing challenges in the consumer market is the slower-than expected commercial growth in the first quarter itself. But looking at other factors including extended PC lifetimes and the lack of compelling new PC experiences, which have played equally significant role, it still leaves scope to think on the growth of media tablets.


Ketan Patel of Creative Peripherals, who seems to be a hardcore tab fan believes that any user who is using the computer will definitely be hooked on to the iPad. "iPad gives a consumer all services, like email communication, on-the-go usability and durability. The tab craze has just started and it might slowly make its own corner in the PC market, which is unavoidable. Even I am an ardent fan of laptops, but currently tab rules my hit list. In fact, tab is eating up the BlackBerry market with its cost-effective schemes. You get a Samsung tab for as cheap as Rs 22,000. Everyone is gearing up for the tab market such as ViewSonic, AOC and even Motorola," says Patel.


Is the hype around the tab justified in regards to the PC, which has ruled the market for a decade now.

"I don't agree with the tab ruling the market currently, but yes within a year it can show up the results in terms of sales. I think it's a complete add-on rather than a replacement in a consumer's workplace. Even I love the iPad, but when it comes to serious work I shift to my laptop. On the mobility part, tab tends to acquire the first place in the race," adds Nityanand Shetty, proprietor, Essen Vision.


As of now, tab is the most sought after choice of consumers in metro cities, but does it limit its popularity only to these regions or there are chances of it diversifying in the upcountry region as well?


Arun Mangave from Aditya Peripherals, Kolhapur states, "Currently, the tab hasn't made its presence in upcountry as it is not publicized here in the way it has been in the metros. Also, the basic thinking here is that a PC has a longer lifespan compared to a tab. While the former can last up to 3-4 years the latter has a life of close to 2 years. Eventually, people would also prefer tabs here but right now the sales figures say it all." Magan Gangani from Newtrack Computers, Nashik says that it is impossible for the tab to overtake the PC market in the upcountry region. The tab market will show its growth in this region, but it will take time to stabilize its position.


Companies should also buck up their marketing skills in order to pump up sales in the upcountry regions. With new reports indicating that Apple will announce the availability of iPad 2 in India from the first week of May, iPad still has to be launched officially in the upcountry regions. According to a Gartner report, 70 mn media tablets are to be sold this year and 108 mn in 2012, compared to just 17.6 mn in 2010. The longterm future of the traditional PC market will hinge on whether hardware manufacturers are able to articulate a message that sparks consumer interest in terms of the PC market.


"Companies have been focusing on the metros and are not doing the required promotional activities in the upcountry regions. People should be made aware about the new launches and applications in these regions. As of now we are only happy seeing the ads on TV about the latest products in the market in the iPad zone," adds Arun Padmavar from Sigma Computer and Peripherals, Akola.


With the iPad attracting the interest of consumers and corporations alike, it looks like the tab will be the flavor of the season. But PC has been an equally significant component, which continues to get faster and more efficient.

Also, it's not only the PC makers who are eyeing the tablet market, mobile phone makers like Motorola are also set to foray into the tab space. Motorola hopes to expand its product line beyond cell phones and is looking at launching its tablet computer early next year. While Samsung Electronics has already unveiled its 7'' Galaxy Tab in the US market, others like HTC would join the tablet bandwagon soon.