Apple iPad heralds era of the tablet?

Apple iPad

Apple's iPad launch may mark the beginning of a media tablet frenzy to the tune of four million shipped in 2010 and 57 million shipped annually by 2015, according to a prediction from ABI Research.

"Apple's iPad is not the first media tablet," senior analyst Jeff Orr said. "But it does help define this new device category. The main focus of media tablets is entertainment. A tablet will not replace a laptop, netbook or mobile phone, but will remain an additional premium or luxury product for wealthy industrialised markets for at least several years."

The research group defined a media tablet as a device five to 11in in size with a touch screen interface, Wi-Fi connectivity, and video and gaming capabilities.

Only weeks ago, Dell and other vendors introduced new tablets at CES in Las Vegas.

Tablets have long been available, but ABI claimed Apple will make market entry easier for other companies especially smaller vendors by creating hype and product awareness.

"New entrants to this market are at a disadvantage since they lack the retail relationships and network operator agreements already built by the more mature vendors," Orr said. "Surprisingly, Apple may have done them a favour by raising the public profile of the whole media tablet category."