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Whitebox (local or non-branded) vendors are the fastest growing segment of the worldwide tablet PC market, according to the latest report from DisplaySearch. Back in Q1 2011 a little less than two million of non-branded slates were sold. While China is the biggest market for whitebox tablet PCs, other emerging regions are also adopting these tablets, including Asia Pacific, Latin America, and parts of EMEA.

According to DisplaySearch, the no-name tablet PC players increased shipments from 567K units in Q4 2010 to 1.9M units in Q1 2011, representing a 235% quarter-over-quarter growth rate. China represented the largest market for whitebox tablet PCs, accounting for 44% of worldwide shipments. Overall shipments of the tablet PC category were down 5.2% quarter-over-quarter, from 10.2M units to 9.7M units, but up nearly thirteen-fold year-over-year, from 668K to 9.7M units.

Apple remains the leader in the tablet PC market with a 54% share, and is the leader in many aspects of the segment in terms of usage experience, hardware design and price. The growing size of the whitebox tablet PC market, with nearly a 20% share in Q1 2011, is a sign of increasing demand by the mainstream market for tablets.

The whitebox tablet PC space is made up of screen sizes primarily in the 7” and 10.1” wide categories, but also includes screens mirroring the Apple/HP form factor of a 9.7” 4:3 format. The 9.7” screen size introduced by Apple (and then adopted by HP) is unique not only in its size and aspect ratio (the rest of the mainstream LCD market from notebooks to TVs is dominated by wide formats), but also in the high-end IPS/FFS technology used in its display.

The whitebox tablet market in emerging regions is price sensitive and is partially able to exist because whitebox tablet makers use panels that are left unused by major brands with slightly lower quality levels, like lower brightness. Using panels from what is essentially a secondary market allows device makers to offer aggressive pricing as compared to iPads. Despite some quality issues of these whitebox tablets, they remain appealing to value conscious buyers, such as students, who are shopping based on price.

“Price is a significant influence on any consumer product, and tablets currently carry a healthy premium on the cost of the hardware components. The emergence of the whitebox tablet market is an indication that the market is reacting to that premium and trying to give consumers a lower price to drive adoption. In the short term, the tradeoff will likely result in a less than ideal user experience," said Richard Shim, senior analyst for DisplaySearch.

It is noteworthy that the other segments of the mobile PC market, mini-note and notebook PC, experienced quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year growth rates similar to tablet PCs. The mini-note segment grew 17.3% quarter-over-quarter in China as a result of holiday demand, but year-over-year results declined 10.2%. The opposite occurred in the notebook segment, where shipments quarter-over-quarter declined 5.9% while shipments year-over-year slightly rose 1.6%.

Tags: Apple, iPad, Samsung, Galaxy, HP, TouchPad, PlayBook

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