Tablets coming out in full force at CES

Tablet computer makers, hoping to get attention in a market dominated by Apple Inc.’s iPad, are using  CES, North America’s largest trade show as a coming-out party.

Tablet sales could top 100 million worldwide in 2012, GfK Boutique Research director Steve Bambridge said in a Sunday CES news conference at the Las Vegas Venetian.

Amazon is competing aggressively against Apple, especially on price. Ten-inch Wi-Fi tablets, such as the iPad, can cost $400 to $500, while most 7-inch tablets start at $300. The 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire is priced at $200. Kindle Fire is designed to deliver content provided by Amazon while the iPad uses iTunes.

Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet, $99 to $249, offers similar content to the Kindle Fire, from streaming movies to downloading books and access to Facebook.

While these big-name brands have succeeded, others have faltered for a number of reasons.

Rim in Motion’s debut tablet was a bit of a disappointment as the company ended up taking a $485 million third-quarter charge due to unsold Blackberry Playbook inventory.

RIM recently slashed PlayBook prices to $299 for the device, regardless of storage capacity. It comes with 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes. The temporary price cut ends Feb. 4, according to the Blackberry online store.

The HP TouchPad was pulled within weeks of its launch because of slow sales blamed in part on its $400 to $500 price. On the HP website it’s listed as “sold out,” though a 9.7-inch Wi-Fi version with 16 gigabytes sells for $269.88 on eBay.

While there have been hits and misses, more new tablets are coming. At CES, which officially starts Tuesday, Toshiba will unveil its newest and thinnest Tablet at 588 grams (slightly more than a 20 ounce bottle of soda), 10.1 inches wide and 7 mm thick, according to a company statement.

Asus will offer something a bit different with the Eee Pad Slider, featuring a pullout keyboard. Archos just released an 8-inch tablet, while Samsung is adding to its Galaxy lineup with an 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab.

For Velocity Micro it’s a pair of successors to its budget Cruz T408 tablet. The T507 Android 4.0 slate includes a 7-inch screen, a front facing camera and a sub-$150 price.

Meanwhile, the price for the larger 9.7-inch Cruz T510 tablet has not yet been announced.

“These products are an affirmation of what our focus will be for 2012 … smart and affordable consumer electronic devices,” said Randy Copeland, president and CEO of Velocity Micro.

Apple doesn’t even attend the show. But a recent report by the research firm Gartner Inc. expected tablets to see an explosion in sales over the next three years, selling 60 percent as many units as PCs by 2015.

The Gartner report expected the iPad will still have almost half the market by then.

Others are less optimistic. Canaccord Gentry estimates that iPads will account for 57 percent of all tablets sold this year. That figure was expected to decrease in the coming years. Apple’s share of the tablet market in 2010 was 82 percent, which declined to 65 percent last year.

Apple is reportedly preparing both new iPads for release this year. The DigiTimes technology news website expects the new iPad 3 to launch in March, with the iPad4 shipping in October.


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