updated 06:35 pm EDT, Thu September 2, 2010
Compal expects most iPad rivals to quit in 2011
Compal president Ray Chen told those at an investors' meeting that he expects the fledgling tablet industry to undergo a major thinning effect for all but Apple's iPad in 2011. He saw the entire competition moving just 10 million to 12 million tablets next year where many expect Apple to reach those numbers in 2010 with only eight months of sales. The poor results will likely see some companies quit the market after just a year, DigiTimes heard, because they falsely assumed they would automatically succeed.
He also claimed to have witnessed first hand the detrimental impact on netbooks as customers picked tablets have picked the iPad and other tablets over the cheap but slow notebooks. Microsoft and Intel will have to either find ways to lower the cost or improve the performance to offer a meaningful alternative, Chen said. Intel has partly addressed this with the dual-core Atom N550, although analysts at Gartner also suspect many buyers are also moving back to full notebooks since the premiums on performance have shrunk.
Compal as a contractor has been co-developing tablets with Acer, Dell and Lenovo, and at CES in January had reference designs that could be modified by other companies to use. Chen claimed that he was also trying to win some of the manufacturing for the iPad. Most assembly has gone to manufacturing giant Foxconn and isn't as likely to reach others, but Apple has purportedly sought extra suppliers to handle the sheer demand.
Apple's success had caught many off-guard in the industry, as companies like ASUS had kept clinging to netbooks and, until the iPad, had often kept all tablet development to poor-selling, convertible Windows notebooks. In 2010, Windows tablet PCs are predicted to make up just 1.25 million PCs for the entire year; Apple took less than two months to beat the prediction for its own limited but portable and sometimes cheaper devices. Most serious competitors are only just now launching their first comparable tablets and gave Apple a several-month head start.