'Tens of millions' expected to buy tablets in 2010

Leading up to an Apple product launch next week, Deloitte issues a research note that predicts tablets will finally capture the hearts and wallets of consumers.

MacBook tablet
Will tablets finally appeal to consumers? CNET

A Deloitte research note claims that tablet computers will finally capture the affection of consumers this year.

"Tens of millions of people" will buy a tablet computer--or a "NetTab," as dubbed by Deloitte--in 2010, the company predicted Monday.

"NetTabs are expected to meet specific consumer needs" that aren't being met by either smartphones or by laptops, the company said. Deloitte reasons that smartphones are "still a bit small for watching videos or even Web browsing," while notebooks, Netbooks, and ultra-thin PCs are still "too big, heavy, or expensive."

Deloitte is even more optimistic when it comes to years beyond the current one. The company said that once the market sees just how well NetTabs sell in 2010, competition will increase at a rapid rate, building a sector of the tech industry that could outpace that of GPS devices.

"While it is difficult to forecast sales of devices whose specifications are unknown, some analysts estimate 12-month sales from launch of over one billion dollars," Deloitte said. "This is larger than global sales of personal navigation devices."

So far, major PC vendors, including Hewlett-Packard and Dell have said they will offer tablets. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showcased HP's Slate at the CES trade show earlier this month.

Perhaps in the most anticipated announcement in this arena, Apple may be unveiling its own tablet at an event set for next week.

Still, tablets aren't anything new. Previous devices from PC vendors failed to take off, causing some to wonder whether the value they purportedly offer is really there. Deloitte asserts that previous tablet devices failed because of their design and focus and that the new wave of products will fare much better.

"The graphics, software, and user interface were underwhelming, not well connected to cellular or Wi-Fi networks, and, most important, they have largely served as work-oriented data-entry devices," Deloitte said of earlier tablets. "By contrast, an easy-to-use, consumer-focused device used primarily for media and Web browsing is much more likely to be widely accepted by the market."

For now, a consumer-focused tablet has yet to make a splash in the market. But all that could change next week when Steve Jobs takes the stage to show off his company's self-anointed "latest creation."

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