If you thought the tablet market was on the verge of being saturated, think again. According to DisplaySearch, tablet PC shipments will reach 455 million units by 2017, at which time slates will account for nearly 75 percent of the mobile PC market as a whole. DisplaySearch says falling prices and continued advances in display technology will be key in the upcoming growth of tablets.
Along with every other hardware player, Microsoft is hoping to see a boost in sales from the back-to-school shopping frenzy that's about to get underway. Unlike everyone else, however, Microsoft is sitting on a mountain of unsold Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets, which to this point have only generated $853 million in revenue. This led to Microsoft taking a $900 million charge on unsold inventory followed by a round of price cuts, first with Surface RT and now with Surface Pro.
There was a time when a desktop or notebook PC was needed for casual computing chores. These days, tablets (and smartphones) are more than sufficient for light email, surfing the web, watching streaming videos, playing casual games, and more, so it's no surprise that slates continue to sell at a rapid pace. What some might find a little shocking, however, is that tablet PC shipments will soon outpace notebooks shipments by a factor of 2:1.
There's no need to wear a helmet when you walk down the Windows RT tablet aisle at your local Best Buy or Microsoft retail location, it's not as though the ARM-based devices are jumping off of store shelves. Might that change sometime in the future? Adding to the value proposition of owning a Windows RT slate and in an effort to boost demand, Microsoft announced that Outlook 2013 RT will be available on such devices as part of the free Windows 8.1 update that's coming later this year.
It's only a matter of time before Android overtakes iOS in the tablet space.
The open source nature of Android is perhaps a double edged sword, depending on how you look at the situation. On one hand, fragmentation is a sometimes annoying byproduct of having so many different device makers putting their own spin on the operating system, which is why Android 2.3.x (Gingerbread) is still the most popular version of Android to date. On the other hand, it's the very reason why Android's market share is so much higher than Apple's iOS platform. The one exception is tablets, but given enough time, it's inevitable Android slates will outnumber the iPad.
Look out Intel, because Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) also intends to wrestle ARM in the mobile space. The Sunnyvale chip designer just unveiled a new Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) designed for performance tablets and small form factor (SFF) PCs, the AMD Z-60. It's a low power chip that promises all-day battery life along with "stunning graphics" and support for the latest Windows 8 applications, AMD says.
In what's being described as "just the beginning of Intel's effort in the tablet market," the world's largest chip maker unveiled its Atom Z2760 processor (codenamed Clover Trail) for Windows 8 tablets. According to Intel, the spunky Atom chip allows for the thinnest, lightest tablets built on the company's architecture -- as thin as 8.5 mm and 1.5 pounds -- and lends itself to long lasting battery life, enough to watch 10 hours of local HD video.
Amazon may have ignited a price war with the introduction of new Kindle Fire models starting at $159, and $199 (and up) for the HD variants. However, the low prices come with a couple of caveats. First and foremost. every new Kindle Fire tablet comes with what Amazon calls "special offers" that appear on the lock screen. These are essentially ads in the form of money saving offers. Secondly, if you want a wall charger, that's a $10 add-on. Let's take a closer look.
Unless you catch one on sale, you're not walking home with a new Android 3.x (Honeycomb) tablet for less than $400 from a reputable vendor (give or take a few bucks). Most of them run $500 and up. Ever wonder why that is? Back when the iPad was the only game in town, the assumption was that Android tablets would bring affordable slates to the masses. We're starting to see that with pre-Honeycomb tablets, but slates running Google's latest and greatest mobile OS still command a premium. Is that by design?
Go ahead and award yourself 250 geek points if you've heard of Telechips, a Korean fabless semiconductor company working closely with ARM. Telechips has actually been around for a little over a decade and during that time it developed the world's only digital based Caller ID chip, as well as a handful of other market firsts. More recently, Telechips has focused its attention on the emerging tablet market and just extended its license of ARM Mali embedded graphics to include the Mali 400 MP GPU.