Copycats seek to cash in on iPad fever

08:20, May 28, 2010      

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The war over the tablet computer market has already begun in China, although US tech giant Apple Inc has yet to release its iPad in the country.

Regardless of that fact, Chinese manufacturers are pumping out dozens of clone models of Apple's latest icon into the market in an effort to appease the country's growing appetite for mobile computers.

Zhang Naiyun, president of Mastone Communication & Electrical Development, a domestic cellphone maker, said on Thursday that it expect to sell 500,000 of its latest tablet computers, called the LifePad, in China in the next 12 months.

The company on Thursday teamed up with China Telecom to launch the device, which would run on the carrier's 3G network.

"We are a Chinese company so we can make the best tablet computers for consumers here," said Zhang. She said the company also plans to launch an online application store that contains most of the popular Chinese applications.

First developed two years ago, Mastone's tablet computer is based on the Android platform and comes preinstalled with applications such as navigation and handwriting recognition technology. The product, targeting business users, will be sold at 4,980 yuan ($729), according to the company.

"With China coming into the 3G era, the cellphone is no longer the most preferred mobile device," said Zhang. She said products that are positioned "between cellphone and laptops" would see huge demand in China.

Apple has not yet officially launched the iPad in China, but a "gray market" trade in the touch screen portable tablet computer is booming on e-commerce sites and at stores across the country.

During the past few weeks, Chinese telecom operators including China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom all expressed an interest in introducing the product to China. But the timetable for the gadgets official launch in China is still not clear. That window has provided the opportunity for domestic iPad clones to promote their own products.

Hanwang Technology, an e-book reader vendor, on Tuesday launch its own tablet called the TouchPad in China, which is an Intel powered tablet that runs Windows 7.

"IPad is only a toy, but our TouchPad is a real tablet computer," said Liu Yingjian, president of Hanwang.

To demonstrate its resolve in taking on the iPad, the company recently smashed an apple-shaped ice block at a launch ceremony.

Although most of the clones are keen to challenge the iPad, industry experts said there is little indication that sales of Chinese tablet clones will significantly impact iPad sales when it does become available in the market, as the portability, function and designs of cloned products are still limited.

"IPad's popularity in China will be defined when Apple brings the product to the Chinese market," said Pang Jun, analyst from research firm GFK.

He said it took Apple two years to make the iPhone officially available in China, which resulted in the rampant smuggling of iPhones and sluggish sales of the official product.

According to figures from research firm Gartner, global tablet PC shipments will reach about 2 million units this year.

Other firms including Lenovo and Acer have also announced plans to launch tablet computers in China.

Source: China Daily


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