A tablet computer, media tablet or simply tablet is a mobile computer equipped with a large touchscreen. Tablets typically don’t have a keyboard or any physical drives. Early tablet computers used to run on trimmed down PC operating systems, while today's tablets predominantly run on variations of smartphone
operating systems such as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. The concept of a tray-shaped handheld computing device isn’t new. As early as the 1980s, several companies released tablet computers, although admittedly with little success. In the early 2000s, Microsoft revived the concept and released a tablet PC running on a special version of their Windows operating system. It was designed to mainly serve business-purposes and never really made an impact in consumer markets.
It wasn’t until 2010 that tablet computers became a mainstream consumer product. The success of touchscreen smartphones
had paved the way and in January 2010, Apple introduced the iPad. In contrast to earlier tablets, the iPad is marketed primarily as a media consumption device, although it also offers productivity tools such as spreadsheet and word processing. The device became an instant hit, selling more than 19 million units in its first year. By the end of 2012, global iPad sales
had amounted to 120 million units, generating more than 50 billion U.S. dollars in revenue.
Apple’s success with the iPad brought the tablet industry back to life and the media industry believed it had found a new channel to distribute paid digital content. Numerous high-profile electronics manufacturers such as Samsung, RIM and HP released tablet computers in quick succession, but Apple’s competitors struggled to replicate the iPad’s success. Remarkably, HP announced that it would discontinue its TouchPad just weeks after it had been launched in July 2011. The remaining stock was sold for a heavily discounted $99 (from $499) and flew off the shelves.
In September 2011, Amazon
presented the Kindle Fire, a multimedia tablet closely integrated with Amazon’s online store and aggressively priced at $199. Although technically inferior to the iPad, the Kindle Fire became a success mainly thanks to its low price and Amazon’s attractive content offerings. For Amazon’s business, the Kindle Fire is a long-term investment: the company is reportedly losing a significant amount of money on every Fire tablet sold but is willing to do so in order to sell more content in the future.Global tablet sales
are currently growing at high rate: in the fourth quarter of 2012, 52.5 million units were shipped, up from 29.9 million in the same period of the previous year. Market research firm IDC expects the growth to continue in the next few years: a recent forecast of tablet shipments
predicts that 283 million units will be shipped in 2016, compared to less than 20 million units in 2010. In the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple’s market share in the tablet market
was 43.6 percent.
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