Motorola reportedly plans to ship as many as 800,000 Xoom tablets during the first quarter of 2011, while Research in Motion hopes to ship a million BlackBerry PlayBook devices. I tend to avoid this sort of story, because it doesn’t actually tell you how many people will buy these devices, only how ambitious the manufacturers are feeling. But in this case, that ambition is kind of the story in its own right.
Apparently the OEMs in charge of building Motorola’s Android tablet and RIM’s new BlackBerry PlayBook have received rather large orders which seems to be a pretty good indication that the market will soon be flooded with tablets.
Tablet computers, of course, are nothing new. Major PC makers have been cranking out Windows tablets for the past ten years, but these have typically been premium devices with premium features and premium price tags. Apple changed the market when it launched the iPad at $499 and up and targeting casual consumers rather than business and niche customers.
At CES this year, we saw dozens, if not hundreds of tablets of all shapes and sizes. Most are designed to run Google Android or Windows 7 and to be honest, it’s getting a bit difficult to tell one from the next, which is one of the reasons the BlackBerry PlayBook is interesting — it’s something different, and from one I can tell, it’s something pretty good. HP is also expected to unveil its own take soon, with a webOS tablet. With literally millions of these devices set to hit the market soon, I guess we’ll soon see whether the iPad is unique or whether there’s actually huge demand for all sorts of portable tablets.