Toshiba to Launch Tablets World-wide in 2011

Toshiba plans to launch tablet computing devices in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere early next year, a top Toshiba engineer said in an interview.

“The market for tablets is very hot right now,” said Hideo Kasuya, an engineer involved in the development of tablet computers, on the sidelines of the annual Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, also known as CEATEC, near Tokyo.

Toshiba’s releases will come amid a rush of tablets from rivals around the world, such as Samsung Electronics Co., which announced plans Tuesday to sell its Galaxy Tab device in Japan.

Last month, Toshiba unveiled its Folio 100 tablet at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, saying it will be launched in Europe, the Middle East and Africa by the end of this year.

Mr. Kasuya said in an interview Tuesday that Toshiba is also preparing to release tablets in other parts of the world, including the U.S. and Japan, though the name Folio 100 might not feature among them.

Toshiba, the world’s fifth largest maker of laptop personal computers as of the April-June quarter, according to research firm IDC, aims to become a major player in the rapidly growing tablet market, which has so far been dominated byApple Inc.’s iPad.

But this new product category is already starting to look crowded, as makers of computers and mobile phones rush to roll out their own tablets. Many of those non-Apple tablets run on GoogleInc.’s Android operating system.

Japanese rival Sharp Corp. plans to launch its Galapagos tablet, which the company describes primarily as an electronic book reader, in Japan in December and in the U.S. next year.

Dozens of companies are expected to launch tablets this year. U.S. Research firm iSuppli projects this year’s total global shipment of tablet computers at 15.4 million units, and expects the figure to more than triple to 48.3 million units next year.

The tablet fever was evident at CEATEC, where Toshiba’s Folio 100, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Sharp’s Galapagos were all on the exhibition floor, with many visitors lining up to try out the new Android-based tablets.

“Players in the tablet market are not limited to traditional PC makers,” said Mr. Kasuya. “The general trend is that Android-based tablets are becoming more and more widespread.”

Toshiba’s new tablets to be released globally early next year are also expected to run on Android, though details are yet to be finalized, he added.

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