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Tablet PCs gain ground

But many resellers still think the format will fail

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Some 35,000 Tablet PCs shipped in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) during Q2 2004, market watcher Canalys has reported.

Sound a lot? Well, it's certainly 25 per cent more than were shipped in Q2 2003, though 12 per cent fewer than Q1 2004's total. But despite that year-on-year growth - higher than that experienced in the notebook market - the Tablet remains a niche product.

Q2's shipment total represents less than one per cent of the total number of notebooks shipped in the same period in EMEA. Some 3.6m notebooks shipped during the quarter.

Can Tablets ever move into the mainstream? According to Canalys' survey of EMEA resellers, what they want to see are lower prices, to bring them more in line with notebooks, and more Tablet-friendly apps, particularly vertical ones. And in EMEA specifically, the format needs broader language recognition support.

However, some 12 per cent of resellers surveyed said the format is destined to fail, and there's little that can be done about it now.

"There is clear demand for increased workforce mobility," said Mike Welch, Canalys VP. "But the tablet PC is not riding that wave nearly as well as it should, particularly outside the US."

What does appear to be attracting buyers to the Tablet format is the convertible design. Tablets that sport rotating screens that allow them to be used like standard notebooks as well as slates. Convertible shipments were up 93 per cent year on year and now account for 80 per cent of shipping Tablets, Canalys said. Slate shipments were down 45 per cent year on year.

That said, the middle two quarters last year were particularly weak for the keyboard-based models, noted Canalys researcher Rachel Lashford. "While the growth is positive, it would be premature to read too much into it."

Tablet maker Acer recently admitted that the format may take years to catch on, and that it was working to lower costs and thus prices. Certainly, its approach appears to be paying off, with shipments up 171 per cent year on year to the point where it is now seriously challenging market leader HP for dominance. HP's own shipments were up just nine per cent - well below the industry average of 25 per cent. But it's clear that is becoming a four-horse race, with HP, Acer, Fujitsu-Siemens and Toshiba together accounting for over 82 per cent of the market, up from 62 per cent this time last year.

Q2 EMEA Table PC Shipments
Rank Vendor Q2 2004
Shipments
Q2 2004
Market Share
Q2 2003
Shipments
Q2 2003
Market Share
Year-on-Year
Growth
1 HP 8220 24.5% 7550 28% 9%
2 Acer 7880 23.5% 2910 10.8% 171%
3 Fujitsu-Siemens 5830 17.4% 3460 12.9% 68%
4 Toshiba 5770 17.2% 2970 11% 94%
5 Panasonic 2190 6.5% N/A N/A N/A
  Others 3680 11% 10,030 37.3% -63%
  Total 33,570 100% 26,920 100% 25%

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