Tale of two tablets
Resellers can pitch two flavours of tablet: the slate, where there's no keyboard directly attached but users can plug one in via a USB port; or the convertible, which has a keyboard and can act like a traditional laptop. Locally, the tablet convertible has been the early winner because of its practical functionality, Sager added.
Catering to one or both categories, market-leading vendors including HP, Acer, Toshiba and Lenovo are now in the tablet game and jockeying for position, he said. Asus will make its first tablet PC available in June. The company reportedly plans to roll out a 13-inch screen, use two hard drives and feature fingerprint authentication.
"We need Dell to get into it. The market needs one more major, and then we will see another growth spurt," Sager said. Acer was one of the first hardware vendors to partner with Microsoft to launch tablet PCs in November 2002, according to mobile product business manager, Lindsay Tobin. Tablet PCs are an area the corporate market has been taking up recently, he said, with customers like Orica, Sensis and ANZ using them in conjunction with sales automation software for mobile sales staff. Resellers could look to exploit opportunities in under-serviced markets like the service industries, finance and education, which were still to achieve full potential. A top focus for all markets is the push towards biometrics. Acer's latest model, the C200, features integrated fingerprint security for investment protection. Another top feature is the slide and fold display, Tobin said, which is ideal for business professionals on the move as well as healthcare workers, mobile field teams and SOHO users. While sales have been slow to date, Tobin said tablet momentum was improving. Acer only plays in the convertible space.
"The convertible is more comfortable for people to use and the slate has a big learning curve," he said. "In education, for example, teachers have not been comfortable with slates.
"We don't see the slate as being a large enough slice of the market to cater for but that's not to say we're not constantly reviewing our position."
From a feature perspective, tablet users today are most interested in longer battery life, enhanced screen brightness, robust security and advanced connectivity.
"The latest tablet offers extended battery life, up to eight hours usage, as well as a high brightness and contrast," Tobin said.
While Fujitsu PC Australia caters to both the slate and convertible markets, technical manager, David Niu, said the company is seeing lots of action with its convertible tablets in the education, medical and construction circles. The company is offering models suited to indoor and outdoor usage.