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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Rise of the tablet computer

Sales of $430m last year only 10% less than that for PCs
The Straits Times - May 5, 2012
By: Grace Chng
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Rise of the tablet computer An Apple employee carrying boxes of new iPads as they went on sale on March 16 in New York. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CONSUMERS in Singapore spent almost as much on tablet computers like iPads last year as they did on personal computers.

The rise of the trendy gadget has been astonishing since the market was ignited by the arrival of the iPad in April 2010.

Sales here reached about $430 million last year, more than double the level of 2010 and just 10 per cent less than the $493 million laid out on PCs, the traditional computer market leader.

And there is more to come with sales growth this year tipped to be 30 per cent to 50 per cent, according to Mr Gerard Tan of research firm GfK Asia.

The iPad is clearly the market gorilla. Globally, the Apple device had about 61 per cent of total sales last year, noted research firm Gartner. There are no numbers for Singapore, but the iPad dominates.

Apple kick-started the tablet market when it unleashed the iPad in April 2010. While it has been snapped up by consumers, the latest trend is that it is creeping into businesses.

Gartner principal research analyst Lillian Tay said senior executives have been buying tablets for personal use and then finding them useful at the office.

'They are the best candidates for tablets because they use them to read e-mail and reports. They don't have to write long reports or crunch spreadsheets in which case they would use their PCs.'

In a Gartner forum held in the United States last November, a quick poll of attendees showed that many had their personal tablets hooked up to their internal networks. 'This is how tablets creep into organisations,' added Ms Tay, who is based here.

She estimates that by 2015, companies will account for 35 per cent of tablet sales.

In recent months, Gartner in Singapore has seen a rise in the number of companies asking how they can use tablets for business.

Mr Tim Bajarin, a consultant with US-based Creative Strategies, said tablets are better than even the super-thin laptops called ultrabooks, which are also highly popular. 'Tablets are more versatile and much more portable,' he said.

'Business users will still use laptops for heavy word processing, extensive spreadsheet analysis and major graphics projects, but tablets will be more for fast mobile data access and for what we call 'glanceable data', something that business users need wherever they happen to be in their business day.'

Several small and medium- sized companies here are already using tablets.

Vision Building Forensics, a survey and project management firm, has saved much paperwork by having managers use tablets to collect information on site.

Firm partner Tan Shan Shan said its three project managers can also take photos with their tablets of peeling paint or cracked walls during building inspections. 'These are sent wirelessly to our office as part of our report. Previously, this was all done manually which led to mistakes and delays in getting reports to our clients.'

Aardwolf Pestkare, a pesticide management company, has 50 Android-powered tablets for service technicians. They replaced PDAs (personal digital assistants), which were getting outdated.

Managing director John Ho said: 'With the PDAs, the storage capacity is too small. With the tablet, I can store information which my service technicians can access at their fingertips.'

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