The first-generation iPad was officially launched in India at the end of January, a full 10 months after it was first announced, and a mere month before its sequel, iPad 2, was unveiled at an Apple event in San Francisco, US.
Time may not be on India’s side, but if a recent roster of launches is anything to go by, price definitely is.
The iPad and its closest big-brand rivals, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Dell’s Streak, retail for a small premium over their US price in dollars—between Rs 22,000 and Rs 40,000, depending on the model.
The first tablet launched specifically for the India market, the Olivepad, has slipped to Rs 19,530. Online retailer Infibeam.com sells a tablet called the Phi, available in both Android and Windows CE, for Rs 14,999. While not exactly a “portable tablet”, Hewlett-Packard (HP) launched an 18.5-inch desktop touch-screen slab called the DreamScreen 400 for Rs 19,999. It runs a modified version of the Linux Operating System, and comes preloaded with a choice selection of apps.
Now, computer maker HCL Infosystems is launching a set of 7- and 10-inch tablets called the ME series, which start at Rs 14,990.
“We are aware that the market is competitive, and believe that just standard global applications will not work in India,” says Rothin Bhattacharya, HCL’s executive vice-president. “We intend to introduce a suite of customized and localized content to address the needs of our customers.” HCL’s tablets will run version 2.2 of Google’s Android operating system, with a custom interface on top. At the moment, this “customized content” includes local maps, apps for streaming Indian movies, astrology and Indian Railways timetables. The tablet also claims to have “one-touch” access to a 24-hour customer service called HCL Touch. The entry-level HCL ME AE7 runs on an 800 Mhz processor and weighs 400g. The most expensive in the series is the HCL ME AP10, which sports a 1 Ghz processor and 16 GB of internal memory. All have the usual set of features one expects from a tablet—Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and accelerometers. They will be available first in Delhi, at electronic stores and HCL showrooms, and then across the country by month-end.
The other new entrant to the tablet market is unusual. Singapore-based Creative, known mainly for its audio equipment, is launching its series of ZiiO tablets, which start at Rs 17,999.
The Creative ZiiO
“India is warming up to tablet PCs,” says Ernest Sim, Creative’s regional sales manager. “The market today stands at around 25,000 units a quarter but is expected to grow exponentially.” The ZiiO is part of Creative’s new “wireless ecosystem”, a set of wireless devices that include a wireless speaker set, headphones and entertainment decks. “The idea behind the tablet is mobility,” Sim says. “We want to bring personal entertainment beyond the confines of a single room to the whole house.”
The Creative ZiiO is available in a 7-inch model (in white, with a resolution of 480x800) and standard 10-inch (in black, with a resolution of 1024x600). Both models come in 8 GB and 16 GB variants, and ship with a leather case. They run Android version 2.2, but an update to Gingerbread is “under way”, says Sim. They come bundled with Creative’s own apps for higher audio fidelity, called X-Fi.