Moderately Priced Tablet PCs Gaining Momentum, China’s Potential on the Rise

26 Jul

Ever since Apple popularized tablet devices, China’s tablet PC market, which has been in development for two years, has gradually begun to build a respectable momentum. Although tablet products produced by Chinese and other Asian companies are by no means in a position to threaten the iPad’s dominance, significant progress have been spotted in the areas of the product quality, customer experience, and cost efficiency. An example worthy of noting is Google’s 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet, manufactured by the Taiwanese company, Asus. After being introduced into the global markets, the miniature, cost effective device gained widespread recognition amongst consumers, in turn giving Chinese manufacturers the inspiration –as well as the incentive– to develop their own set of affordable tablet PCs.

Chinese Tablet Manufacturers to Operate in Segmented, Middle to Low-end Tablet Market

Perhaps due to favorable market movement and low technical threshold, Chinese-made tablet PCs have been spreading more widely than ever and are continuing to increase in popularity. Given that many of China’s tablet PC companies were once manufacturers specializing in MP3 and MP4 players, companies making traditional PCs, cell phone, and home appliances have begun to see the lucrative prospect of portable tablet devices and are gradually transitioning towards the tablet industry. It will be hardly surprising if, years from now, companies from other traditional electronics sectors begin to embark on such a strategy.

With Apple already dominating the high-end tablet market, many Chinese manufacturers have seemingly chosen to produce middle to low-end tablets in order to avoid a heads-on competition with the Cupertino giant. While the local companies’ end products are usually not as innovative as the iPad, China’s tablet manufacturers have nonetheless begun gaining momentum and competitive edge in the local industry. At the moment, Lenovo, Malata, and Eben are a few of the domestic leaders of the tablet market known for producing high-end tablet devices. The second tier, low to middle-end tablet manufacturers, on the other hand, include Aigo, Ainol, and Newman.

Given that the domestic market is already filled with countless 7, 8, and 10-inch tablets that uses capacitive touch panels as well as the entertainment-centric Android platform, a good number of companies are now joining a movement in which the “entertainment” philosophy is abandoned in favor of promoting specific technical features. In order to suit Chinese consumer needs, Eben, Lenova, and Malaba have turned their attention towards creating tablet devices that emphasize business mobility. Eben, at present, stands out as the most successful of the three in terms of dishing out business oriented tablet PCs.

With the iPad mini set to arrive later this year, TrendInsider believes that the price and size-related advantage enjoyed by most Chinese-made tablets may eventually weaken and, at worst, diminish altogether. It is perhaps because of this potential trend that China based Manufacturers now seek to enhance business opportunity by “localizing” their tablet devices. Chinese manufactured tablets are now increasingly being differentiated based on how they fulfill the different needs of local citizens rather than how different they look from one another. It is believed that those who restrict themselves to fighting strategic price wars will be on the losing end of the tablet industry.

Low Priced, High Quality Chips: The Prized Assets of Chinese Manufacturers

To date, there are many major manufacturers out there that produce Tablet PC memory chips, amongst them Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, Telechips, VIA, and TI. The China-based manufacturers, on the other hand, include Rockchip, Allwinner, Infotmic, and Ingenic. While prestigious, global manufacturers have a certain tendency to focus on designing chips that work for first-tiered tablet devices while neglecting those of a second or third tier nature. The chip makers from China, unlike those companies, design their chips for all types of tablet PCs, regardless of whether they rank below the first tier. It is likely due to this reason that domestic tablet devices are famously known to be embedded with a “Chinese core.”Performance-wise, these tablets function at quite an impressive level and, allegedly, have yet to disappoint its users.

During September of last year, a chip that has made a huge impact, sales-wise, is Chi’s A10 Cortex A-8 processor. The main reasons for the success of this chip include its utilization of the impressive “many-core” technology and its uncanny ability to support 2160p 24FPS video. Ingenic also made quite a huge impression with its XBurst embedded CPU, which is made for devices that adopt the MIPS architecture. Assuming identical manufacturing settings and conditions, the XBurst CPU uses about 1/3 to 1/4 the power consumption of ARM CPU, and has approximately 1.2 times to 1.5 times the performance capacity. Its size, along with its cost, is also half times less than the ARM processor.

With their rising stature and popularity, the high performance Chinese chips restore consumer confidence in local tablet brands, in result making people more selective about purchasing flat panel products. TrendInsider has noticed that although there are a lot of chip manufacturers in China, much of the time innovation is hampered due to the authorization required from ARM. If the chip makers’ R&D departments have more flexibility to freely modify the ARM architecture, TrendInsider believes that many Chinese companies will be able to secure a stronger competitive advantage in the growing tablet industry.

Chinese Flat Panel Products to Enter the Dual Core Phase

In 2011, dual core processors were arguably the standard go-to choice for first-tier, global brand computers. In 2012, the Chinese tablet industry caught up with the trend and begun entering its own dual core era. During April, 2012, Rockchip’s RK3066, Amlogic’s MX, and many other high performance dual core chips were released into the mainstream Chinese market. The immense adoption and popularity of these chips, in a sense, is understandable; unlike single core processors, dual core processors feature high efficiency and low power consumption, and effectively handle multi tasking operations to ensure a smooth computing experience. Coming into 2H12, it is believed that there will be no shortage of dual core products in China that feature stylish aesthetics, powerful performance capabilities, and affordable prices (which many believe will be under 1000 CYN). At the current rate, it will only be a matter of time before the dual core tablets becomes a mainstream product in China.

Of course, other than Rockchip and Amlogic, a lot of other manufacturers are beginning to sharpen their acts as well. Recently, there is a rumor that Allwinner will be the first Chinese company to enter quad core territory with plans to release its quad core chip during this August. Utilizing the ARM Cortex-A7 structure, quad core chips are known not just for their high performance potential and extremely low power consumption level, but also for being significantly more cost effective. Given the impressive specs, there are many high expectations for the soon-to-be-released tablet PC from the Chinese company, ISexy. This will allegedly be the first Chinese tablet device to incorporate the quad core chip.

At present, the IC design company, Media Tek, is amongst the many big names waiting to devour a big piece of the high-end tablet PC market. The company will reportedly rely on three major chips– the wireless 4-in-1, the master wafer, and the peripheral chip–as a means of inducing high profits from the flat panel industry. With the main quad core product in tape-out phase, Media Tek’s chipsets are set to be released at sometime around 4Q12 to 1Q13, and will likely be targeted towards the middle to high-end tablet computers. In the past, Media Tek’s dual-core chips have appeared in various mid-priced smartphones and found endorsement from major companies such as Huawei and ZTE. It is predicted that tablet computer manufacturers will show the same kind of support for the company’s newly released quad core chip.

Considering how quad core processors are arriving at a time when the dual core standard has yet to become mainstream in China, the local tablet industry can be said to have a relatively short time to make adjustments. Due to the domestic tablets’ continuing improvements, along with its relatively smooth transition from single to dual core processors, it should not take too long before the Chinese market eventually get used to the quad core processor. Undoubtedly, there is still a long road ahead for Chinese chip manufacturers in terms of catching up with the more experienced technological giants like Samsung, Texas Instruments, and Qualcomm. TrendInsider, however, believes that with the quality of existing chips made by local companies, Chinese made tablets have become impressive enough to earn a rightful place in the global market.

Tablet Market Maturing, Room for Improvements

Following the recent years of development, the tablet PC market is no doubt on its way to reaching maturity. Assuming China’s technological advancements continue, it can be argued that the gap between Chinese-made and overseas tablets will gradually become smaller.

TrendInsider predicts that for 2012, the shipment figures for tablet PCs will reach almost 100 million units. Although it is believed that Apple’s new iPad will still remain the leader of the tablet industry, the company’s share of the market is expected to drop following the entry of more and more competitors and the introduction of viable substitutes. The continual extension of the tablet market, in addition to the declining market share of Apple, is likely to pave way for the potential waves of Chinese-made tablet devices. Given the growth of tablet usage in areas such as dining, finance, education, and medicine, and considering the device’s general accessibility to people of different ages and gender, the doors for future tablet advancements will likely remain wide open for the years to come.

According to TrendInsider, the future tablet industry is set to be dominated by the likes of Apple, Google, and Microsoft, whose recent introduction of Surface is expected to bring further diversity to the tablet market. It is believed that the three companies’ decision to take advantage of both the software and hardware realms will not only result in more intense high-end tablet competition, but also bring about a new era for mobile devices. If Microsoft and Google prove to be as successful as Apple with their tablets, their success will go on to show the benefits of operating in both the software and hardware fields, and prove that consumers are far more willing to spend on branded tablet products that come as “full package” than those that serve as a mere host for third party software.

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