Apple has just launched its iPad in India, Samsung has responded by reducing the price of its own tablet by almost a quarter, but these aren’t the reasons why this columnist believes we are in for the era of the tablet even in India.
The first reason is the emergence of local mobile phone brands. Depending on whether one is looking at data from IDC or Gfk Nielsen, Nokia has a share of between 31% and 50%, down from 70% in 2006. And almost all the gains have gone to local brands such as Karbbon, Lava, Maxx, and Micromax.
Although some of the companies behind these brands are now investing in factories in locations such as Baddi (in Himachal Pradesh; the tax regime is friendly there), all built their presence in the market using designs from Taiwanese design firms and the manufacturing prowess of Chinese contract manufacturers (both are easily found on alibaba.com).
Dual-SIM, high-res cameras, scanners, push mail—the design firms offer pretty much everything in their menus and anything they can design, the manufacturing firms in China can churn out (some even offer customers the option of shipping the phone directly to local distributors in cities and towns across the country). Sometime this year, I expect all these companies to turn their attention to the tablet. Sure, supply may be a bit of an issue for some time, but if there is anything the likes of LG, Samsung, Hitachi, and the Hon Hai group have proved repeatedly, it’s that they can ramp up capacity rapidly.
The price? I’d venture Rs10,000, maybe even lower. And the OS? Android, of course.
The second reason is that Mukesh Ambani will, sometime later this year, launch his broadband wireless service across India. Irrespective of the technology platform he chooses, he will need a device. Something tells me the broadband revolution in India will not happen on PCs, but tablets. And something tells me Ambani, who stirred up the phone market in the early 2000s, will launch a low-cost, high-quality tablet along with his broadband service.Depending on the billing plan, the customer picks, the tablet could even come free.
While both of these will probably happen this year, 2012 is when their impact will really be felt.
For most Indians, the first Internet-access device will not be the PC. Nor will it be the phone. It won’t even be the television. This writer is convinced it will be a tablet.
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