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Will New Media Tablets Displace PCs or Smartphones?

Led by a growing demand for media tablets -- and more specifically the Apple iPad 2 -- an estimated 37 million ultra-mobile devices (UMDs) will ship into the United States during 2011.

UMDs represent mobile computing devices on a continuum bordered by laptop or notebook  PCs and smartphones.

The UMD category consists of four segments: ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs), mobile Internet devices (MIDs), netbooks, and media tablets.

The revenue value from vendor shipments of UMDs into U.S. sales and distribution channels during 2015 is forecast to reach $24 billion. About 75 percent of total UMD shipments in the U.S. market during 2011 are expected to be media tablets.

“While the near-term opportunity is all about media tablets, no UMD segment type has ever sustained a lead for longer than 36 months in any part of the world,” says ABI Research group director Jeff Orr.

Is the next mobile device trend, beyond the introduction of new low-cost media tablets, on the horizon? Will it displace an existing mobile device category? We will have to wait and see.

Netbooks continue to be an important segment, though U.S. volumes will steadily decline over the next five years from all-time highs of 9.9 million units shipped in 2010.

Netbook value will shift from highly competitive computing and mobile broadband markets, including the U.S., to countries where low computing and home broadband penetration offers the greatest potential for mobile computing.

UMDs are well-positioned inside the edges of the mobile device landscape, though end-user demand is driven more to newer form-factors by an emotional connection -- and less on consumer needs and business roles.

“For UMDs in the U.S. to take the PC or smartphone markets head-on, there needs to be a fundamental shift in buying behavior -- driven by lifestyle enhancements and workplace requirements,” says Orr.

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