Apple created another high-tech revolution on Wednesday with the unveiling of its iPad tablet PC. Featuring a multitouch screen that is operated by finger or stylus, the device lets users surf the Web, play games, watch movies, listen to music, send and receive e-mail, and read e-books and newspapers. Part smartphone and part laptop, the iPad is expected to change the market for mobile content devices by offering far more functionality than existing products like netbooks, e-book readers and portable media players.
Just three weeks ago at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft unveiled a tablet PC that it developed with HP. Google, Dell, Sony and Taiwan's Asus all plan to roll out their own tablet PCs this year. Deloitte Consulting recently issued a report forecasting sales of more than 10 million tablet PCs this year. The device is the main theme of the IT industry this year.
The first tablet PCs were introduced in 2001, but they failed to attract consumers because of poor Internet connections, problems with the touchscreens, and other hardware issues. But many foreign companies continued to develop tablet PCs and in the process accumulated the technology to pioneer a whole new market. Now Apple is creating an entirely new business model by establishing an online content store offering everything from music to software, e-books, newspapers, movies and TV shows.
But Korea's IT industry isn't prepared to join this trend. It was known for some time that Apple was planning to roll out a tablet PC as a key product alongside the iPod and iPhone, but Korean companies have made no effort to develop one to counter the iPad. In a similar way, they failed to quickly respond to the iPhone and are now lagging behind in the smartphone market. Korean IT companies have grown used to entering markets pioneered by foreign players, and have been content making money in safe business areas rather than creating their own revolutionary products. That strategy worked for the semiconductor, display device and mobile phone markets. But with the global IT industry changing rapidly through the fusion of hardware, software and content, Korean companies will be left in the dust if they continue to mimic rather than innovate.