Tablets are the hot thing in computing right now, that’s for sure, and they’re only going to get bigger.

According to IDC’s EMEA Quarterly Media Tablet Tracker program, tablets reached a volume of close to 6 million units in EMEA in 2010, representing a third of worldwide sales. Driven by the unprecedented success of Apple’s iPad, media tablets continue to drive major demand traction and a momentum not only likely to be maintained but to accelerate this year, with IDC projecting over 22 million tablets to be shipped in 2011 across the EMEA region.

Following the stellar uptake of Apple’s iPad last year, with the vendor selling close to 5 million units in EMEA, and further market expansion expected this year in terms of product offering as all vendors bring their products to market, and with Apple just releasing the iPad 2, demand for media tablets is expected to be further boosted in 2011.

Adoption will continue unabated in Western Europe with continued uptake across all key countries, including the U.K., France, and Germany, and any other countries where the iPad and other products are available, while demand will also gradually increase in Central Eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa (CEMA) as products become available and add incremental volumes.

“IDC forecasts the EMEA media tablet market to more than triple in 2011 to reach 22 million units,” said Eszter Morvay, research manager at IDC’s EMEA Personal Computing group. “A plethora of new products is expected to hit the market in the coming months and will drive further buoyancy around the media tablet category and create an additional demand vacuum in the second half of 2011 for the back-to-school and next Christmas seasons.”

Apple clearly dominated the market in 2010 with over 80% share and is expected to maintain leadership in 2011 overall. Introducing a unique product category and new user experience through effective touch screen and the iOS user interface, and bearing all the Apple hallmarks in terms of product design, branding, and technology, the iPad will continue to drive phenomenal traction. And the newly released iPad 2 will allow Apple to maintain an advance on its competitors with an even sleeker design, while performance and speed have doubled and product availability will continue to expand across EMEA.

Competition, however, will increase as more products come to market. While most vendors were quick to develop and announce products, many opted to wait for the release of the new Android 3.0 Honeycomb version before introducing their products. As a result, Samsung was the only main competitor to Apple in 4Q10 with the 7in. Galaxy Tab.

Several other Asian and local European vendors, including Archos, Viewsonic, and Elonex, also went ahead and generated incremental volumes. With the arrival of the new Google Android operating system, however, IDC expects traditional PC vendors, including Acer and Asus, to make a strong push in the market, while Samsung will further expand by launching a new 10in. version of the Galaxy Tab. HP and RIM will come to market soon with their respective Web OS and BlackBerry OS and will also add to the competitive environment.

“The introduction of media tablets in 2010 marks an important milestone in the mobile computing industry,” said Karine Paoli, Associate Vice President, IDC EMEA Client Computing. “While tablet form factors have been on the market for some time, however targeted at business users or niche segments, the emergence of new ‘media tablets’ initiated by Apple and the stellar success of the iPad introduced a new product category and new usage scenarios which will drive mobile device adoption and multi-equipment further and represents a major market expansion opportunity. User experience will, however, be key in customers’ choice and while a fierce battle is expected between vendors, the battle will clearly also be placed around the OS.”

While not expected in any way to replace traditional notebooks or smartphones, media tablets clearly offer a strong value proposition for more consumption-oriented usage. Instant access to the Internet and hundreds of apps, effective touch screen, and sleek design offer an enriched user experience and open new usage scenarios that will lead to their adoption as a strong secondary or tertiary device.
The consumer segment is expected to remain the primary target market for media tablets, but there is increasing interest from businesses.

Some companies already see the potential of tablets as productivity and promotion tools for their sales force, and others could be looking at adopting tablets to address specific vertical needs. Several applications remain unaddressed by traditional computing devices, including traditional tablet PCs, and could well be addressed by a new generation of tablets. While Windows compatibility could remain an important factor in the business space, and the reason why vendors also develop Windows-based tablet PCs, the opportunity will depend on the vendors’ ability to meet business needs in terms of platforms and application, while support and management costs will also be key elements for IT decision makers.

From a channel perspective, broader product offerings and increasing customer uptake will also drive expansion in terms of route to markets. The retail channel accounted for the majority of sales in 2010, and will remain a key channel in 2011, but IDC expects the telco channel to increase its footprint in this category in the coming quarters. Telco operators have so far been very cautious compared to when netbooks were launched, having learned from past experience, but media tablets represent a solid value proposition and a natural extension of their portfolio between smartphones and portable PCs.

Carefully evaluating the right business model to drive mobile broadband service revenues, they will undoubtedly contribute to market development through subsidized offerings and fierce competition expected among operators.

Increased competition will lead to more aggressive pricing, and as vendors further ramp their production in 2012, media tablet ASPs are expected to fall significantly, which will fuel accelerated media tablet adoption as well as fast renewal rates, and support continued market expansion.

Media tablets clearly represent a major new opportunity and IDC expects the market to reach close to 60 million units by 2015 in the EMEA region. Driving new usage scenarios, tablets represent a third major value proposition between smartphones and portable PCs, and will help boost further overall device adoption and multi-equipment.