Last year, when Dow Jones tied up with Bharti Airtel to feature financial and business news from Wall Street Journal and its own wire services on mobile devices in India, the MD of Dow Jones India, Mitya New, showcased the content on the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab. This was surely indicative of things to come.
The tablet PC is emerging as a must-have among the tech-savvy in India. However, tablet users in India till very recently had very little choice - they could either buy an Apple iPad or the Android-driven Samsung Galaxy Tab. There is the Olive tablet too since October last year, but apart from its pricing, it has failed to create an impact.
Last week, the tablet options doubled with the launch of Acer India's Iconia Tab A500, an Andriod-based 10.1-inch gadget, and the Windows 7-based Iconic Tab W500 in the same size. The A500 works on Google's Android Honeycomb 3.0 platform, the first tablet with Honeycomb 3.0 in India.
Several players are just waiting in the wings to launch their own tablets. "We can expect multiple launches in July-August so that the tablets are on the shelves by September. Lenovo's LePad, BlackBerry's Playbook, HP's Palm tablet and Cisco CIUS are expected to hit India in the coming months," said Sumanta Mukherjee, lead analyst for PC products, Cybermedia Research.
Samsung has announced two more tablets and Acer has lined up a dual touchscreen notebook for later this year.
There are no official figures for the number of tablet users in India as it is a very nascent market. However, the current market leader is the iPad, according to market watchers, despite its late official launch in India in March 2010. According to sources, iPad2 shipped 20,000 pieces for its India launch on April 29, which sold out within 72 hours. The current waiting period for an iPad2 is about 21 days.
There is the likelihood of local Indian mobile phone makers such as Micromax coming out with their own tablet soon. Also, there is talk of Reliance Infotel, which has bagged a 3G licence, coming up with its own branded tablet, Mukherjee added.
The market is niche and only a small percentage of Indians are likely to buy a tablet if they already have a mobile phone and a laptop or PC, said Rajiv Makhni, managing editor (technology), NDTV. "The tablet market will get very interesting the minute a company has the foresight to launch a tablet priced under Rs 15,000. If that happens, it will penetrate the masses and the tablet will become the new all-in-one entertainment and communication station."
Sandip Biswas, director, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, said, "We should not be surprised if, in two years' time, Android-based tablets priced below Rs 10,000 emerge. Anyway, the tablets will need to come below Rs 20,000 in order to address larger consumer numbers. People are already working on that in the Far East and Asian markets."
Tablet-makers are optimistic. "Across India, the response for the Tab has been huge and Samsung is already targeting a 50% share of the Indian tablet market this year," said Ranjit Yadav, Samsung's country head for mobile and IT.
"With consumers getting more technologically aware and willing to experiment with new gadgets, we are confident that tablet PCs will capture a significant share in the market, which will focus on early adopters and tech-savvy users who want to experience more content on the move," said S. Rajendran, chief marketing office, Acer India.
"Tablets are aimed at a new and emerging consumer demand that is poised to grow phenomenally. Consumers have already started to explore the tablet's limitless potential," said Vishal Dhupar, MD, Asia South, NVIDIA, a computing technologies firm that has partnered with Motorola, Samsung, Acer, LG and Asus for their tablets.
"As our professional and personal lives get more intertwined, consumers will increasingly look for a device that can cater to both professional and leisure needs. With the growing availability of high-speed mobile and wi-fi networks, mobile devices will also be used for performance-intensive tasks handled so far by traditional PCs."
"We believe that tablets will end up being an awesome content consumption device as people have mobile lives and expect to see and share content in real time. An improving global economic situation is likely t find customer spends increasing on aspirational products. With more useful and interactive content, the demand for handheld devices has already started to pick up. Tablets have started to find usages inside corporates, hotels, education and healthcare. This will further consolidate the tablet's position as a specific category and not as a replacement to netbook or a notebook," said Jagdeep Kochar, VP & business head, EBS Worldwide.
Deloitte's Biswas said, "Enterprise usage - medical representatives, sales and retail service personnel are all potential users of tablets. Even payments on delivery can be effected on tablets."
In terms of relative usage, Biswas said, "People will continue to use mobile phones for its primary voice utility; the tablet will become the mobile PC device and laptops/notebooks will sit on table tops in offices or homes. The desktop PC's days are over."
By March 2013, Deloitte expects that worldwide, 35% of the overall tablet PC base of around 100 million units will be delivered by iPhones, 40% by Android-based tablets, 15% by Windows-based tablets and the remaining by other technologies.