Apple iPad to trigger belated tablet boom, says ABI Research

The new device defines the tablet category, says analyst

Like a rising tide lifting all boats, Apple Inc.'s high-profile iPad will help sales of all media tablets to grow nearly 15-fold over the next five years, ABI Research Inc. predicted on Tuesday.

ABI forecast that four million media tablets such as the iPad and Google Inc.'s coming Chrome OS-based tablet, will ship this year. That number is expected to grow to 57 million in 2015.

ABI defines media tablets as touch-screen PCs with screens of between five and 11 inches in size, Wi-Fi connectivity and video and gaming capabilities. That means a Kindle-type e-reader would not be included in ABI's definition, which envisions tablets that serve as a full-fledged entertainment device, said analyst Jeff Orr.

"Apple's iPad is not the first media tablet," Orr said in a statement, pointing to other interesting models launched at CES such as Lenovo's IdeaPad U1 hybrid tablet/laptop , HP's coming Windows 7 slate and even the Android-based Archos 5. "But it does help define this new device category."

Without a keyboard, media tablets aren't great for creating content. As tweeners in both features and size, media tablets will remain a luxury item, not a must-have, compared to smartphones or even netbooks.

"A tablet will not replace a laptop, netbook or mobile phone, but will remain an additional premium or luxury product for wealthy industrialized markets for at least several years," Orr said.

Eric Lai covers Windows and Linux, desktop applications, databases and business intelligence for Computerworld . Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericylai , send e-mail to elai@computerworld.com or subscribe to Eric's RSS feed .

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