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Phablets and Tablet PC: Breaking the PC Mold

This year’s CES was noteworthy from a device perspective because of the designs that defied or pushed the limits of convention. In the smartphone market, the emerging and size-defying phablet category had some new entrants that are testing the screen size boundaries of a phone while the all-in-one desktop market is also pushing design and usage models with new table PCs.

The phablet (i.e. phone and tablet combination) device category expanded in screen size and with the addition of a newcomer in the form of Chinese tech giant Huawei. The phablet category started with Samsung’s Galaxy Note and its 5 inch OLED screen, which later expanded to 5.5 inches with the Galaxy Note II. At CES, Huawei announced its Ascend Mate which has a 6.1 inch 1280 x 720 screen and its Ascend D2 with a 5 inch 1920 x 1080 display. The Ascend D2 will be available in China later this month and the Ascend Mate will be available in China in February.

 

Photo credit: Lori Grunin/CNET

Lenovo joined Sony in the emerging table PC with the IdeaCentre Horizon which will come with a 27 inch resistive touch-based display. Lenovo also has a prototype of a 39 inch version as well. It is planned for release in the summer of this year. The IdeaCentre Horizon and Sony’s Vaio Tap 20 (i.e. comes with a 20 inch display) are PC that stand upright like an all-in-one desktop PC but can also be laid down flat.

  

Both the phablet and the table PC categories represent the extreme end of a form factor trend that we expect to see throughout 2013. The traditional lines that have been used to define, categorize, and track devices are expected to only become more difficult to maintain. We anticipate that brands will experiment with new designs and form factors in search of versions that will resonate with consumers to drive adoption. While we don’t project that any design change will ultimately translate to an industry-wide increase in shipment growth (i.e. we are forecasting a -5% Y/Y shipment growth for notebook PCs) we anticipate that brands can score image points and credibility with consumers for willing to be bold with design. That has translated to good fortune for Apple so it should not be underestimated.