Smartbook story a gripping read

Smartbooks, or multifunctional portable devices – especially those in tablet form – will enjoy explosive sales over the next four years and will represent more than 50 per cent of all embedded device sales by 2014.

According to the latest forecasts from Informa Telecoms & Media, sales of smartbooks are expected to rapidly grow from 3.65 million in 2010 to nearly 50 million in 2014. Informa classifies smartbooks as multifunctional portable devices with embedded cellular or WiMAX connectivity, discounting wifi only devices and those relying on a dongle or similar. Devices like the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab are leading the way, merging the best features of both smartphones and netbooks, and potentially sounding the death knell for dedicated eReaders.

“There has been a resurgence of smartbooks particularly in the tablet form, fuelled by the launch of the iPad, and we are seeing the same kind of proliferation and interest in tablets now, that we saw two years ago for ereaders. There have already been several tablet launches of late, the most notable being the Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab. We expect to see more launches over the coming months in the run up to Christmas,” said David McQueen, principal analyst at Informa.

Ereaders on the other hand are under threat from a number of sources, the analyst said, as e-book content is now available on most multifunctional devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers, netbooks and other consumer electronics. “While the iPad may not be as ideally suited to reading as a dedicated eReader, many users are finding that it works well enough as a book reader, in addition to its many other functions,” added McQueen.

Price cuts by Amazon and Barnes & Noble have also taken their toll on the eReader market. The list of eReader makers which have been experiencing problems has grown recently and includes many smaller players like Skiff, iRex and Plastic Logic. Informa expects mobile broadband eReader sales will peak at 14 million units in 2013, before falling by 7 per cent in 2014 as the segment faces increased competition from a wide range of consumer electronic devices including cheaper non-connected models, like the Kobo and new Kindle WiFi.

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Informa believes that smartbooks are the perfect candidates for distribution via the operator channel, with opportunities to strengthen operators’ mobile broadband proposition and validate smartbooks as a genuinely new product category.

“Pricing will be crucial to stimulate demand as will customer choice and competition, which is being driven by a number of leading device vendors now readying themselves for the launch of more smartbooks, many of which will undoubtedly verge towards the tablet design with touch screen, WLAN and 3G-connectivity,” said McQueen.

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