It seems like with every day that passes another company is announcing that it is going to release a tablet computer sometime this year.  Is it an after effect of the iPad?  Is it a trend that the companies actually seeing taking shape?  Those are hard questions to answer, but one question that really does need to be answered is just how many tablets can a relatively new market sustain?

ipadIt is highly doubtful that all of these tablets coming out are a result of Apple’s iPad as it was only (officially) announced in Jan. of this year.  Google announced its intentions of a tablet powered by a new Chrome OS nearly a year ago, the JooJoo (known then as the CrunchPad) was announced last fall and this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was jammed with tablets of all kinds.  Now Toshiba has announced that it will release two tablets this year: one running Windows 7 that will be some sort of dual screen setup, and another one that will run Google Android with a screen around 10-inches.

Tablet computers have been talked about for years, and while there have been a few attempts to get them off the ground, the concept never quite took off with consumers.  What has changed that makes so many companies think they can all enter the market at essentially the same time?  Are they not thinking that this may lead to the consumers feeling overwhelmed by the choices on a format they aren’t even that familiar with?

The above linked story from Reuters reports that research group In-Stat are predicting that by 2014 the tablet computer market market will be around 50 million units.  That suggests that there should be enough room for all comers, but we also know that isn’t what happens historically.  You can easily figure that Apple will capture the majority of the market, just as it has with digital music players and a large portion of the smartphone market.

If the tablet market does truly grow to this size, there will be an inevitable shakeout of the weaker models, which means consumers are going to have to be careful in which they choose from the outset.  If they pick a model that ends up being one of the losing entrants, they could find themselves with a lack of support, no firmware updates and a lack of support from third-party developers for the platform.  In short, they could end up with a really expensive paperweight.

Once you’ve studied it, if you feel a tablet answers some need in your computing life, make sure you choose wisely, and do your research.  Right now the market is just too crowded for them all to be sustainable, and the last thing you want to do is pick one of the models that ends up being the loser.