LAS VEGAS – Big tablets and small tablets, white ones and black ones. Cheap ones and expensive ones. Brand names famous and obscure at the starting line of a race where the iPad is already a speeding dot near the horizon.
It's impossible to walk the floor at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show without stumbling across a multitude of keyboard-less touch-screen computers expected to hit the market in the coming months. With Apple estimated to have sold more than 13 million iPads last year alone, the competition is clearly for second place, but even that prize is worth pursuing.
Technology research firm Gartner Inc. expects that 55 million tablet computers will be shipped this year, most of them still iPads, but there will be room for rivals to vie for sales of the remaining 10 million to 15 million devices.
A bevy of consumer electronics makers, including major names such as Motorola Mobility Inc., Toshiba Corp. and Dell Inc., showed off their tablets in Las Vegas at CES, betting 2011 will be the year the gadgets finally take off.
Companies tried for years to popularize tablets, but the frenzy began only with the release of the iPad in April. Now companies whose names don't include the word "Apple" are doing everything they can to differentiate themselves from the tablet front-runner.