Speaking at a tech expo in Taiwan, Tudor Brown, ARM’s President, told the FT that although the sleek devices seem to many like the perfect prescription-cum-panacea for recession-hit tech firms they could be anything but.
He said: “It’s an interesting market. What we have to be very careful of is projecting just how big that particular part of the market is going to be, because it’s very early days since any of these tablets have been on the market.
“We’re actually into a period of experimentation at the market level, and I’m expecting to see a range of devices ... maybe we’ll see more tablets, different user interfaces, and different ways people are going to use them. But from where I’m sitting right now I think it’s too early to make wild predictions.”
Given just how many tablets were unveiled at the Computex trade show – we counted 12 - it’s perhaps understandable that Mr Brown is calling for some perspective. After all, they can’t all find support in what is shaping up to be a very competitive market. Especially because by the time they arrive they’ll likely have already lost a lot of ground to the iPad and Dell Streak.
And it’s easy to sympathise with him for other reasons too.
If we believe what we’re being told in some quarters, the 2-million-and-counting sales of the iPad evince a sea change in consumers’ tech habits and are proof positive that they're ready to ditch their broadband laptops and netbooks. But it’s easy to forget that these people are, for the most part at least, the usual cadre of Apple early adopters who’ll buy any device bearing the Cupertino seal of quality. So, interpreting their iLove as indicative of the consumers as a whole could be to dramatically misread the market and how ready folk are to embrace tablets.
And yet for all that, we really do think that tablets will be as big as is being suggested. And what's more, we figure that the driver behind that will be the fact that many of the incoming slates are going to be far more affordable than the iPad.
That’s certainly what seems to be happening overseas - and in China in particular. For evidence, look no further than the Android tablet from Shenzhen Chong Shi. With its expansive seven-inch screen and neat looks, only the most vehement of Jonathan Ive fanboys could deny that it looks like a really nice bit of kit. And it's on sale for just $73. That’s a good deal cheaper than mid-range mobile phones on UK pay as you go plans.
At that kind of price point, we can easily see the mass market making room for a slate between their smartphone and other broadband enabled devices. And for that reason where forecasts of a tablet takedown are concerned, you really CAN believe the hype.