Tablets like the iPad and Nexus are keeping the market sizzling, but white-box manufactures are turning up the heat.
Chinese manufacturers of unbranded hardware are snapping up tablet displays, prompting Englewood, Colo.-based research outfit IHS to revise its 2013 outlook for displays upward by 6 percent. Instead of the previous forecast of 246 million tablet display shipments, IHS now expects display companies pump out 262 million units this year.
Chinese handset makers are branching out and spurring demand, according to IHS senior manager Ricky Park. "Competitive dynamics in the tablet market have changed dramatically this year as Chinese white-box smartphone makers have entered the tablet market in droves. These companies are producing massive quantities of low-end tablets that appeal to consumers in China and other developing economies," he said in company remarks.
But don't expect those white-box units to sport the latest display technologies.
Park noted that "white-box manufacturers are driving up demand for tablet panels, particularly smaller displays using the older twisted nematic (TN) technology, rather than the newer screens using in-plane switching (IPS)."
Two factors, the small tablet boom and product templates from processor makers, are pushing the market to new heights.
In May, IDC revealed that global tablet shipments reached 49.2 million units during the first quarter of 2013, an impressive 142.4 percent gain compared to the same year-ago period. Small tablets, like Apple's iPad Mini provided the spark.
"Sustained demand for the iPad mini and increasingly strong commercial shipments led to a better-than expected first quarter for Apple," informed IDC research director Tom Mainelli in a statement.
White-box makers will, in part, cause shipments of 8- and 9-inch tablet panels to jump 200 percent in 2013 compared to 2012. In contrast, shipments for displays in the 9- to 11-inch range are predicted to drop 5 percent this year.
Mobile processor companies are doing their part to drive increased demand for tablet displays with turnkey designs. "The designs make it easy for new, inexperienced market entrants to offer tablet products," stated IHS.
Lower manufacturing costs, greater flexibility in production and the ability to seize on a glut of cheap tablet panels are giving Chinese white-box manufacturers a leg up in the low-cost tablet race, according to the group. "Playing to their strengths, the white-box manufacturers are set to continue to increase their presence in tablets and propel the expansion of the overall tablet market," concluded Park.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.