Anticipation builds for iPad 2 launch


The year ahead will be an important one as handheld tablets continue to take a bite out of desktop and notebook computer sales. The market Apple once had to itself now has competition.

Consumers now have a choice, notes Ben Curtis, manager at the Verizon Wireless store on Stevens Creek Blvd. in Cupertino.

"Surfing on the Internet, reading books, magazines, movies and music," said Curtis. "That and the flexibility of being able to take the tablet anywhere they want to go -- simplify their life down."

There is serious consumer appetite for tablets. Tablet shopper Jani Scafani is starting to look at them after buying an eReader recently. She realizes that tablets offer more features, similar to a notebook or full-sized computer, in a lightweight and easily carried form.

"You can go online, you can check your e-mail, you can do almost everything on this that you can do with the computer," she said.

In the first six months after Apple unveiled its iPad last April, it sold 7.5 million units, generating $5 billion in revenue. Now less than a year after creating the tablet market, Apple isn't sitting still. Wednesday will be a big day for Apple. That is when what everyone expects to be the successor to the iPad, the iPad 2, will be unveiled.

Some makers of desktop and notebook computers have been caught off guard by the way consumers have taken to tablets. Last week, HP -- which doesn't have a tablet yet -- reported sales of computers to consumers dropped 12 percent in the Christmas quarter.

Now it's estimated there are close to 100 models of tablets in the works by various companies.

"It caught a lot of people off guard in terms of how tablet sales ate into PC sales, so I think a lot of companies that maybe weren't anticipating getting into the tablet market, or not as soon, really had to," said WIRED senior editor John Bradley.

The Xoom is using a new version of the Android operating system made for tablets. Apple has the advantage of being first.

"I think that Apple is going to rule, at least for the next couple of years I would say, they'll still be close to two-thirds of the tablets sold, which is a lot," said Bradley. "They're predicting anywhere from 75 to 90 million tablets sold in the next year or so."

More choices are on the horizon as other companies continue to work on tablets of their own.

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