One could go on for hours making jokes about analysts, just as one could for lawyers, so you should probably take the forecast from one Maynard Um with a bit of skepticism: his "conservative" estimate is that Apple will sell 28 million iPads next year.
"Sales of traditional notebooks appear to be feeling pressure from the iPad, causing a scramble by vendors to launch iPad-like tablets," said Maynard Um, an analyst with UBS Investment Research, according to AppleInsider.
"We believe that a majority of this impact is occurring on the lower end of PC sales as the iPad is priced close enough to this range that it becomes attractive to consumers looking to make purchases within this segment."
In other words, despite the fact that Apple CEO Steve Jobs claims the iPad is an unique product, something very different from a notebook PC, buyers are deciding to purchase the tablet rather than investing in a low-end notebook -- or netbook.
My own experience is that consumers that are just now paying attention to the iPad are, indeed, confusing the two products. A guest that visited over the Labor Day weekend picked up my iPad and volunteered that his daughter was considering buying the tablet -- he called it a Mac, however, and nothing I could say to him would deter him from confusing the two products.
When Apple launched its iPad in April it was apparent to me that Apple, while first to market, had crippled its first tablet product so much that it would be easy for a competitor to introduce a legitimate alternative. The iPad, after all, doesn't have HDMI-out and yet is supposed to be for media consumption. It has no storage solution, no printing solution, no front-facing camera, no multitasking, no way to organize and easily share files. In other words, it can't do half the things PC owners expect from a computer.
But despite the detractors, and my own evaluation of the situation, Apple is projected to sell over 15 million units this year. "Our contacts in Asia seem to regularly blame the iPad for a large portion of the [PC] market woes," Ben Reitzes from Barclays is quoted as saying by Fortune.
But TNM was launched knowing Apple was introducing a tablet that would transform media consumption -- especially print media consumption. Nonetheless, I have been surprised that it has taken Apple's competitors so long to introduce a true alternative to the iPad. My assumption was that the iPad would jump start tablets, not that it sell so many on its own.
The reason for this may be that Apple's product caught its competitors by surprise: it offered less as a way of offering more. Rather than adding all the features already mentioned, Apple trimmed back its features in order to lower the iPad's price, while taking advantage of its iOS platform to attract developers to create applications for the tablet.
If the iPad had launched at the rumored $1000 price it would not have enjoyed the same level of success. So now competitors are forced to compete both on features and price -- they have to add in all those missing components, and beat Apple's $499 entry price. Once again Apple will own the top end of the market while competitors fight for the lower end.
One company to jump into the fray is Toshiba. Its tablet, the Folio 100, will launch in November. Like HP's delayed slate, this is a thick beast that will have all the ports you need, though it will not come with 3G connectivity apparently.
The display is 10.1 inches in size meaning that it will compete head-on with the iPad while some other tablets are launching with smaller screen sizes. (I'm a firm believer that the larger screen size is a benefit to print publishers creating tablet editions -- smaller screens will resemble are somewhat between the iPad's look and that of a smartphone -- how do you design for it?)
Here is a look at the Folio 100, care of MobileBurn.com: