Early signs suggest that tablets might not occupy their own niche

Tablet PC ?breakout? could impact other sectors

Tablet PCs will have their “breakout year” in 2010, but this popularity could come at the expense of devices such as e-readers and netbooks.

Deloitte’s annual Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions report claimed that tablet or slate devices, such as Apple’s iPad, will be purchased by “tens of millions of people” this year.

However, as slates become more popular, they could begin to push similar, less functional devices such as e-readers out of the market.

“Book consumption in this country is, on average, four a year, so most people wouldn’t be willing to buy such a niche device when they can get something similar that performs a wider range of functions,” Deloitte’s director of research for technology, media and telecoms, Paul Lee, told PCR. “Small laptops or netbooks could also see some of that.”

EntaTech’s commercial group vice president, Jon Atherton, added: “If the likes of Microsoft and other tier one vendors are investing machinery, time and effort to bring a product out under the tablet umbrella then there is obviously going to be a big marketing push to drive sales.”

Those invested in the netbook market are less convinced. “I don’t think the evolution of touchscreen tablets is the reason why the netbook sector will grow or shrink,” said Bobby Watkins, UK country manager for Acer. "I think it will come down to whether consumers want a device that has the power to produce content or if they just want to do a few small things on the move."

And while Watkins would not comment on whether the vendor was preparing a slate of its own, he did say: “Acer is interested in being the leader in mobile computing. All of the technology and derivatives that make sense in order to position ourselves as the leader, we have to lead in as well.”

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