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Enterprise Opportunity for New Tablet Applications

According to the latest market study by ABI Research, over 11 million media tablets and 43 million netbook PCs will ship worldwide this year. That is lower than analysts expected at the end of last year, based on the results during the period following their introduction.

Regardless, says ABI Research principal analyst Jeff Orr, "43 million netbook shipments are good growth, just not the meteoric pace of the past couple of years."

Part of the drop in demand for netbooks may be due to media tablet sales. However, tablets are still a long way from the 40-50 million annual shipments that ABI Research considers the threshold for a mass-market consumer electronics product.

"Apple has sold a few million iPads in its first quarter, which is great for creating a new market," Orr says. "But early adoption of media tablets is not outpacing netbooks. The iPad average selling price above $650 isn't driving consumer adoption. Competition, especially on price, is needed."

Moreover, Samsung will start selling its Galaxy Tab through network operators this year, a distribution model that differentiates it from the Apple iPad. The network operators want a piece of the new device revenue, not simply to provide network services.

In the U.S. market, the Galaxy Tab will be available through all four of the largest mobile broadband service providers. Vodafone will sell it in the UK and possibly elsewhere, as will NTT DoCoMo in Japan.

To date, the tablet use-case is predominantly consumer-based. ABI believes that the enterprise market for tablets -- as a replacement for laptops or smartphones -- is unclear. Perhaps it isn't a replacement at all, but more a device that has application-specific demand.

A sizable niche market, such as unified communications applications, could develop very quickly for purpose-built tablets that are intended for enterprise use.

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