2011: Rise of the tablet PC

Last Updated: Sunday, January 1, 2012 - 11:53

New Delhi: If 2010 was the year of dual SIM
mobile phones in India, it was the `tablet PC` that walked
away with the title of being the most sought after device in
2011, and technology giants Apple, Samsung and Research in
Motion rushed to grab a share of the booming market.

Over the last few years, about a billion mobile phones
were being sold annually, but it was the tablets that brought
excitement to the world`s second largest telecom market this
year.

Be it the high-end tablet PCs like iPad, PlayBook and
Galaxy Tab or the world`s cheapest tablet Aakash, each one
created a ripple in the market. And today, there are tablets
in various sizes available in the market at different price
points.

According to Frost & Sullivan, Indians are estimated to
buy three lakh units of tablets in 2011 compared to a sales of
about 60,000 tablet PCs in 2010.

The year started with a bang as Apple`s iPad finally hit
the Indian shores. Though the device was priced higher
(between Rs 27,900 and Rs 44,900) than that in markets like
the US, it was lapped up by Apple enthusiasts in the country.

Another major launch by Apple was that of the iPhone 4S.

Though almost identical to its predecessor in looks, iPhone 4S

has an artificial intelligence based assistant called Siri.

The price again played spoilsport as the iPhone 4S
carried a hefty tag of Rs 44,500 for the 16GB version. The
earlier model is available in India for Rs 34,500 (16GB).

2011 also saw other launches from the Apple stable like
cloud service iCloud and operating system iOS 5. However, with
the sudden demise of Apple`s co-founder Steve Jobs, there have
been concerns whether the company would be able to continue
introducing winning products.

June witnessed Canadian firm Research in Motion, which
offers the BlackBerry service, launching its `PlayBook` in
India at Rs 27,990 (16 GB).

Motorola Mobility India introduced its Android-based
tablet PC `Xoom` in the same month, while Taiwanese handset
maker HTC introduced its `Flyer` in India.

The battle of the tablets continued with Samsung
launching its Galaxy Tab 730 (8.9-inch screen) and the
much-awaited Galaxy Tab 750 (with 10.1-inch screen) in India,
priced at Rs Rs 33,990 and Rs 36,200, respectively.

Even as the race to bring out the next "revolutionary"
device continued, Samsung got tangled in legal battles over
claims of "slavishly" copying Apple`s device design.

As the year progressed, it was raining tablets in the
Indian market as telecom operators also joined the bandwagon.

Reliance Communications and Beetel Teletech, a Bharti
Enterprises group company, launched their tablet PCs, albeit
at a much lower price point to cater to the masses. The
Android-based devices were priced at Rs 12,999 (RCom`s 3G Tab)
and Rs 9,999 (Beetel`s Magiq).

Product pricing has always been a crucial growth driver
in the cost-sensitive Indian market. In fact, the success
mantra for the world`s fastest growing telcom market has
majorly been low-cost mobile phones by homegrown brands like
Micromax, Karbonn and Spice.

Even though popularity of smartphones is rising in India,
industry experts are of the view that more than 70 per cent
handset sold here are sub Rs 10,000.

With entry of tablet PCs in the sub-Rs 10,000 range, the
industry hopes to witness a trend similar to that of handsets.
Apart from mobile handset giants and telcom operators, PC
manufacturers like Levono, HCL, Asus and Acer were also lured
by the fast-growing tablet market.
Sony, which is known for its sleek Vaio series of
laptops, is the latest entrant in the segment with its tablets
named S and P.

The year 2011 witnessed some of the most significant and
revolutionary developments in the telecom industry, including
the launch of 3G services by various operators and mobile
subscriber base increasing to 873.61 million in September.

With high speed Internet services like 3G and Long Term
Evolution (LTE) on the anvil, sales of tablet PCs and
smartphones are set to increase further. The Indian government
has set a target of 600 million high-speed Internet
connections across the country by 2020.

One of the significant launches in the year was that of
Aakash, the world`s cheapest tablet device, probably following
the success of the world`s cheapest car `Nano`. Developed as
part of the government`s programme to expand education through
information technology, the device is being made available to
students at a subsidised price of about Rs 1,200. The
government is paying Rs 2,276 per device.

The seven-inch touchscreen tablet flaunts of features
such as 256MB RAM, ARM 11 processor with the Android 2.2
operating system, two USB ports and HD-quality video.

Although, it may seem that tablets completely overshadowed
mobile phones, it was not the case. The handset makers made
sure that the billion unit sales continue to grow in the year.

While last year it was all about low-cost dual SIM
handsets, 2011 saw companies increasing their smartphone
portfolio to cater to the demands of the youth. Smartphones
are a major hit amongst the youth, mainly because they enable
the younger generation to stay connected 24/7 on social
platforms like Facebook.

What also changed during the year was the preference for
operating systems (OS). While earlier users would debate about
brands, the discussion seemed to move to the OS this year.

The popularity of Google`s Android OS powered devices has
been on the rise since the launch of HTC Magic?the first
Android device in the country. According to the research firm
IDC, Android surpassed Symbian OS to emerge as the top
platform in India for the first time.

Not to be left behind, Nokia decided to gradually move
away from Symbian and struck one of the largest alliances in
the history of gadgets with Microsoft.

Announced in February, the partnership saw Nokia adopting
Microsoft`s Windows Phone OS as its main smartphone platform.
Since then, Nokia has launched -- Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 --
to remain ahead in the smartphone race.

While the Nokia-Microsoft pact materialised, Sony and
Ericsson decided to part ways in October after a decade. The
transaction is expected to close in January next year.

The year, however, did not bring much cheer for Research
In Motion (RIM). Though RIM`s BlackBerry devices continued to
gain traction in India, globally its market share declined.
Further, in October, scores of BlackBerry users faced problems
in accessing the e-mail, messenger and other online services
on their smartphones for three days due to a core switch
failure.

Another major event in the devices segment was the
acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Internet search giant
Google for USD 12.5 billion, making it the biggest ever
takeover by the Internet giant so far.

For Samsung, 2011 was fairly good. Although still number
two in the Indian handset market, experts are of opinion that
the smartphones like the Galaxy SII and Note will give a major
push to its growing influence.

Year 2012 promises to be just as eventful, both from
the perspective of tablets and mobile phones.

While the tablet PC market is geared up for intense
competition as vendors like Micromax, G`Five and Karbonn
launch their devices in the market, established players would
also bring out newer models to compete in the intense battle.

On the handset front, one will wait for the launch of
iPhone 5 as well as the new Android 4.0 operating system --
codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich -- to hit the Indian markets.
Nokia`s Belle -- the next version of Nokia`s Symbian
operating system is also expected to come in along with the
new budget series -- Asha.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, January 1, 2012 - 11:53

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