Often, while visiting mobile handsets stores, one gets to overhear a typical query from co-visitors regarding the tablet devices on display: how do I use these for making calls? And before the store guys are able to address the query, some other consumer would pitch in: well, you would have to use a Bluetooth, or you could keep the speaker on…

Likewise, others users often express difficulties using the touchscreen-based keypad. And a proposed solution is quite commonly to use an external keyboard dock.

These observations are not to take the sheen away from the tablets, the market for which continues to grow on the back of star attractions like ultra portability, long battery lives and multimedia capabilities, among other several salient features. Such consumer queries and responses do bring about a key point, that while the tablets have defined and created a new market segment, they will need to grow more computing muscles to start seriously threatening the notebook market segment.

Meanwhile, notebook market stakeholders seem to be taking the right cues from the almost sudden and phenomenal growth and adoption of the tablet devices. The latest, and perhaps the most significant initiative has come from chipmaker Intel, whose new line of Sandy Bridge processors are already beginning to power a new line of ultra thin notebooks that are being dubbed “ultrabooks.”

“These computers will marry the performance and capabilities of today’s laptops with tablet-like features and deliver a highly responsive and secure experience, in a thin, light and elegant design,” Intel said in a news release just a couple of days ago.

This statement may be seen as recognition of the not-so-latent consumer demand for newer generation of devices that can address the gaps that exist with the devices that are already on shelves in the stores. It goes without saying that industry stakeholders in the tablet market segment would also be recognizing such consumer needs and working towards bringing out newer generation of tablet devices that address the convergence requirements of tomorrow’s consumer.

Interestingly, that ‘tomorrow’ could be just a year-and-a-half away, if one were to go by Intel’s projection that 40 percent of the consumer notebook segment would encompass the ‘ultrabooks’ by end of 2012. No doubt, such a projection has the potential to signal a surge in innovation activities in the area of consumer handheld devices. Oh yes, innovations are harbingers of good news for consumers, mostly!

(As published in Deccan Chronicle, June 2, 2011; header changed.)

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