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Minitablets to gain considerable steam, researcher says

Once form factor backers Microsoft and Intel resolve battery issue and marketing strategy, In-Stat says millions will sell.

Despite the general shoulder shrugging that greeted the launch of the first Microsoft-based "ultramobile PCs," the minicomputers are still set to find a market, analysts believe.

According to In-Stat research, the number of devices shipped could rise to 7.8 million by 2011, driven by users looking for a data-centric mobile device beyond their cell phone.

Sales of minitablets will likely be hampered by the lack of appropriate processors, In-Stat said, with battery life failing to match the functionality demands of the devices themselves. However, both Intel and Microsoft--primary backers of the new form factor--have said they are working on extending the devices' average battery life.

The research company also suggested that ultramobile PCs will need to appeal to certain consumer niches. "There is no one-size-fits-all solution for all market segments," it said.

The first minitablet----is set to go on sale in the United Kingdom on June 1, carrying a $1,440.86 (799 pound) price tag. The device will be launched in the United States on Monday, though a specific shipping date has not been announced.

Jo Best of reported from London.