Despite the attention given to media tablets in recent times and speculation they will cannibalise other PC form factors, there will be a surge of innovative devices flooding the market in 2011, breathing life into the mature notebook market and offering ample new opportunities for the channel.
The successful emergence of the iPad in mid-2010 – which also generated a new category of devices called media tablets – has notebook vendors going back to the drawing board in an attempt to bring innovation and differentiation to their offerings in the midst of immense pressure to combat the emerging tablet threat. For those who watched or read announcements at the recent CES in Las Vegas, this trend was highly apparent with a slew of hybrid and innovative devices launched across all form factors.
To be sure, there has never been so much choice for consumers and enterprises alike; and that equals opportunity for vendors and their partners in 2011 as these devices find their way to Australian shores.
Interestingly, while there may be signs of cannibalisation into the mini-notebooks (aka netbook) space as a result of media tablet popularity and given the similarity in use cases, the tablet PC (which differentiates from a media tablet by using a full OS and are commonly slate/tablet PCs or more recently tablet convertible notebooks) has certainly benefited from the renewed interest of both consumer and commercial users in touch-enabled portable devices.
IDC expects, in 2011, media tablets will bring positive attention back to tablet PCs which failed to gain much traction since they were introduced almost a decade ago.
This also leads us to the emergence of new hybrid notebooks and tablet PCs running on full OSs such as Windows 7. They also blur the line between a media tablet and the traditional notebook. A string of vendors – including HP, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Acer – have introduced notebooks that sport a clamshell form factor with single or dual touch screens, detachable screens that double as a slate, convertible tablet PCs with flip hinge designs, and so on.
More of these hybrid devices are expected to emerge in the coming months as vendors look for new ways to appeal to and capture the mindshare of end users.
IDC believes the hype over these new devices will attract attention back to the notebook, giving the relatively stagnant market a much-needed facelift in 2011.
As we move further into the new year the market will become a pitched battle for share across numerous sales channels, particularly in the retail space as media tablets experience a growth spike.
The emergence of new tablets has changed the competitive landscape of mobile devices. No longer are PC vendors such as HP, Acer, or Toshiba exclusively competing with other PC vendors like Dell and Lenovo. In 2011, vendors from different technology sectors — PCs, mobile phone manufacturers, telco carriers, networking, and even software giants — will step out of their comfort zone and onto this new battleground.
The challenge for channel partners is to decide which team will provide them with most benefit in what is expected to be a buoyant year for notebooks of all kinds.
Amy Cheah is PC analyst for IDC