Smartphone makers best equipped to make tablets: analyst

DigiTimes Research of Taiwan cites similar displays, comparable operating systems

Smartphone makers, not personal computer firms, are best positioned to make tablet PCs because of close links between external design and operating systems, a researcher in Taiwan said on Wednesday.

Producers such as Apple and Research in Motion (RIM), among the most successful smartphone makers today, can adapt handset operating systems to tablet PCs, easily get parts and reuse some of the basic display technology for the slightly large portable devices, said Ian Peng, an analyst with DigiTimes Research in Taipei.

Traditional PC makers such as Taiwan's Acer and Asustek Computer have said they expect to grab sizeable shares of the tablet market in 2011. However, on Tuesday, smartphone maker HTC released its Flyer tablet.

That could be a sign of the times. DigiTimes, which specializes in consumer electronics hardware, believes Apple, with its iPad leading the tablet market shortly after the iPhone release, is an example of what's to come. "The iPhone and iPad are just different in their touch panel size," Peng said.

DigiTimes forecasts that tablets will account for five to 10 per cent of the overall PC market, coming to 55 million this year and 65 million in 2012. Of the 2011 total, Apple will make about 40 million, with RIM and Samsung contributing most of the remainder.

Consumers are likely to see a strong connection between the two types of touchscreen device, he added. "People buy their smartphone first and then the tablet," Peng said. "Why? It’s the user experience."

Newer smartphone makers do not expect to beat Apple on new technology, as they can follow it a year or two later and still make money without doing expensive preliminary research, Peng said.

"Steve Jobs is a guy who wants to make products by considering human behavior, not components. Apple is willing to pay a lot of money for things that may never come true," he said. "It's enough to support the industry being very big. That's always the cycle. Apple will be first."

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Tags smartphonesPhoneshardware systemsconsumer electronicstablet PCslaptopsresearch in motionHTC USAApple ComputerWayne Peng

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Ralph Jennings

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