Apple’s iPad may be the most well-known and promoted tablet computer in the world, but it is just one of many, according to ABI Research, which had discovered more than 60 distinct media tablet models from nearly 50 different manufacturers available in at least one country or region.

“Many of these media tablets do not bear household brand names like Apple or Samsung,” says ABI Research industry analyst Celia Bo. “China is definitely a market leader, but it is a ‘white box’ market in which brand is relatively unimportant, prices are relatively affordable (though still higher than those of netbooks) and devices are aimed at domestic consumers.”

Adds principal analyst Jeff Orr, “While these are not (yet) global brands, the very presence of such a thriving white box market in Asia is a good indicator of a growing market that is expected to see robust adoption rates in years to come.”

Most non-Apple tablets feature 7-inch displays, and run on the Android (Google) operating system. The majority of media tablets released commercially in 2010 use application processors from Freescale Semiconductor, the research firm says. Most are Wi-Fi-enabled, giving them Web-browser access to much of the content the Internet offers. In addition, because many of these tablets run the Android OS, they also have access to Android Market for OS-specific applications as well as to vendor-proprietary or regional online stores offering content in local languages. Mobile operators also are adding their own storefronts.

Concluded ABI Research practice director Kevin Burden, “Most of these products started shipping in the last 75 days, and they are still building their market presence. The products released so far do not show any great degree of technological innovation, but we expect to see a new set of vendors in the first quarter of 2011, offering devices with more ambitious capabilities.”

(Editor’s note: For more on the iPad, other tablet computers and their role in the “TV Everywhere” evolution, read the upcoming January 2011 issue of Communications Technology magazine.)

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