Apple's iPad launch marks the start of a new market segment for media tablets that - according to analysts at ABI Research - will see four million units shipped this year. By 2015, shipments are forecast to reach about 57 million annually.
"Apple's iPad is not the first media tablet," says senior analyst Jeff Orr.
"But it does help define this new device category. The main focus of media tablets is entertainment. A tablet will not replace a laptop, netbook or mobile phone, but will remain an additional premium or luxury product for wealthy industrialized markets for at least several years."
ABI Research defines media tablets as having a touch-screen interface, 5-11 inches in size, with Wi-Fi Internet connectivity and video and gaming capabilities. Other features are available in some media tablets.
A number of other tablets were announced at CES 2010. Players in this new field fall into two camps: traditional computer vendors such as Lenovo, HP, and Asus; and a number of new, smaller vendors such as ICD and Notion Ink.
The vendors in the latter category are often quite small and little known, and they see this market as an entry-point. Apple is one part of the mix, says Orr, and will probably be a fairly sizeable player.
"The biggest challenge faced by the media tablet category is how they will reach the market and generate awareness among potential buyers," Orr believes.
"New entrants to this market are at a disadvantage since they lack the retail relationships and network operator agreements already built by the more mature vendors. Surprisingly, Apple may have done them a favour by raising the public profile of the whole media tablet category."