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Tablet PCs Start Philippine Influx

Lenovo and Toshiba to Join the iPad This Month

The Philippines has a population of 90 million people and a voracious appetite for the latest toys and gadgets. With an average per-person income that's only 5% of the US and sluggish Internet connections from its limited providers, the country is nevertheless a good test market for the latest electronics.

Families pool their resources to get their collective hands on an iPad or high-end smartphone, even at prices that run slightly above those in the US. The latest rage will be tablets.

Already the local Apple stores are jammed with people seeking the iPad. Now comes word that Lenovo will introduce its IdeaPad K1 (pictured) this week, at a price of about $570 in local currency. Lenovo plans to sell 1.5 million K1s worldwide this year, and will no doubt have much higher expectations for its upcoming 7-inch A1 pad, which will be priced at $199 in the US.

Additionally, Toshiba will deliver its Thrive AT100 (also branded as "Regza" and pictured below) very soon, albeit at an expected price about $100 more than the Lenovo tablet.

Market Share Battle
Worldwide, Apple may sell 20 million iPads this year. Other competitors - whether Asus, Acer, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, or Lenovo - would do well to match this total collectively.

Indeed, Apple holds a market share of 68% in global tablet sales, according to IDC. This is up a few points from a few months ago, but down from the ridiculous 90% share Apple had at the beginning of the year. Sales were still growing at 300% per year in Q2 2011.

To Apple's benefit, Sharp recently killed two of its Galapagos tablets due to turtle-slow sales; the 7-inch remains for now. And new HP CEO famously declared "no mas" in the first round of the great global tablet fight.

Apple has also stymied Samsung's clonish Galaxy tablet here and there for now, but we can't expect it to be able to hold off all of its look-and-feel competitors forever, for reasons of distribution rather than technology. Apple will continue to be one choice among many at the telco stores that move a lot of product, and it will not appear in the big-box stores and malls that move a lot more. (In the Philippines, "malling" is a national pasttime, and will no doubt be a great battleground for tablet PCs in the next few years.)

Still in Diapers
The tablet PC market is in its infancy, in Year Zero really, comparable to the PC market of 30 years ago, when Commodore, Texas Instruments, Epson, HP, DEC, and many others offered their own unique systems. It could also be compared to the early days of portable computing 20 years ago, when Toshiba, Zenith, Data General, and Hyundai were all in the game. Many players, and an outcome that only looks certain from today's 20/20 hindsight.

The Apple fanboy syndrome exists to some degree in the Philippines as in most places, but is trumped by people's insatiable curiosity about all new gadgets, and an uncanny ability to multi-task across multiple devices. An influx of several new iPad competitors will be fun to watch. Manufacturers could do worse than not only watch, but use Metro Manila as a test market for its products. 

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Roger Strukhoff is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, (@IoT2040), with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo. He is also Editor of SYS-CON Media's Cloud Computing Journal & IoT Journal & & writes for Computerworld Philippines. He has a BA from Knox College, Technical Writing Certificate from UC-Berkeley, and conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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