Is it a threat to the iPad? That’s the question being asked by the Chinese media after the much-touted release of the ViewPad 7 by an American firm called Viewsonic.
The Shanghai Daily says the new product enjoys some big advantages over Apple’s more well known product. The 7-inch tablet computer allows users to make phone calls – unlike the iPad – over China Mobile’s GSM network, as well as via China Unicom’s WCDMA standard. It also features Google’s GPS and two cameras that allow for video calls.
In terms of price, it stacks up well too. Sina.com, an online news portal, says the only competing tablet currently capable of being used as a video phone is Samsung’s Galaxy – and the ViewPad costs Rmb1,000 less. “That gives it a desirable advantage in the domestic market,” Sina thinks.
Viewsonic was founded in 1987 by James Chu, an American-born Chinese entrepreneur. Its core business has always been screens but the advent of the tablet has reshaped the growth outlook for Chu’s firm.
“The key point is no longer PCs but screens. Pads have replaced laptops, especially notebooks,” Chu says. He is forecasting sales of 600,000 of his tablets in China this year and reckons the product will soon account for a third of Viewsonic’s total sales. The company tried to list in 2008, but pulled the deal due to market conditions. That may end up being no bad thing: if it gets its strategy right in China’s tablet market, it could look again at an IPO. Viewsonic has some way to go before it can claim to be a genuine challenger to Apple, which sold 7.33 million iPads in its most recent fiscal quarter, and (it’s speculated) will unveil the iPad2 next week. Will it make calls too?
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