TAIPEI, Taiwan — Computer manufacturers of all sizes and descriptions have been pushing to get a piece of the ever-expanding tablet market created by the launch of Apple's iPad in April 2010.
The obsession with tablet computing will be on full display today as Computex, the world's second-largest computer show, begins its annual five-day run in Taipei. The prominence of tablets underscores a dramatic shift in the personal computer industry — and keenly felt in Taiwan, which is home to some of the world's biggest PC manufacturers — as many consumers opt to buy a tablet rather than a new PC.
Computex will feature more than 50 tablet models, said organizer Taipei Computer Association, with big names including Lenovo Group and Toshiba having their products displayed.
Researchers have predicted slower growth in PC sales this year because of the rising consumer interest in tablets. Gartner Research recently cut its sales growth forecast for global PC sales in 2011 from 15.9 percent to 10.5 percent. According to IHS iSuppli, world PC shipments declined 0.3 percent year-on-year to 8.1 million units in the first quarter of 2011, with sales by No. 3-ranked Acer plunging 20 percent.
Besides tablets, Computex will feature corporate and home servers and other cloud-based computing equipment and services, a sector Taiwanese firms have recently entered to make up for shortfalls in PC sales.
Cloud computing involves running applications in Web browsers. The cloud allows users to store and retrieve data over the Internet whenever it is needed, instead of saving it on their own computers.
At least 10 of the tablet models to be shown at Computex are powered by Intel's new Atom chip, the U.S. technology giant's first microprocessor designed for tablets. The new Atom "delivers improved video playback, fast Internet browsing and longer battery life," said Navin Shenoy, general manager of Intel's Asia-Pacific region.
There is "a tremendous amount of experimentation going on in the industry," Shenoy said. Tablets, which are more popular in mature markets, will not replace PCs, he said, noting the strong PC demand in Asia and emerging markets.
Taiwan's top two PC vendors, Acer and AsusTek Computer, are among those using Computex to display a range of touch screen tablet computers. Their tablets run on the Android operating system that Google distributes free to allow quick Web browsing or film viewing, or on Microsoft mobile software that mostly targets the commercial market.
Acer and AsusTek have promoted their tablets as having expandable memory slots, hoping to lure consumers with more storage needs. The iPads don't have built-in USB ports.
In addition, the companies say their sleek devices can become full-fledged laptops when plugging them into a keyboard docking station for easy typing.