Korean electronics and telecom companies are hoping to get a head start in the domestic tablet PC market ahead of the launch of the Apple iPad here. Smaller than laptops, tablet PCs are easy to carry but boast a bigger touchscreen than smartphones. They are useful for watching videos, playing games and reading e-books, newspapers and magazines on the go.
KT on Monday introduced the nation's first tablet PC. Called the Identity Tab, it runs on Google's Android operating system and is produced by Seoul-based gadget maker Enspert. The device features a 7-inch LCD display, a 1-GHz CPU with 8 GB of storage, a three-megapixel camera and digital multimedia broadcasting capability. It can also be used as an Internet phone, although it connects through Wi-Fi and not a cell phone network.
Samsung Electronic plans to debut its Android-powered Galaxy Tab at the IFA consumer electronics trade show opening in Berlin this weekend. It will hit the Korean market through SK Telecom later in September. LG Electronics will also release an Android tablet PC within the year, and TG Sambo is developing a similar device.
The industry believes the market is ready for tablet PCs thanks to the spread of smartphones and the development of state-of-the-art telecommunication technology. "Many people have gotten used to accessing the Internet on the move with the rise of smartphones, but they find smartphone screens too small and inconvenient," said Kim Sung-chul, an executive at KT. The delayed release of Apple's iPad here is a good opportunity for domestic companies, he added.
Market watchers are mixed about the outlook of the tablet PC market. Some feel its time has come and will build on the success of e-book readers and portable media players. Some 800,000 e-book readers and PMPs are sold in Korea annually. But pessimists say that tablet PCs will fail to find their place in the market, being sandwiched between smartphones and laptops.