The iPad may be popular in Brunei, but they do not penetrate budget consumers who opt for netbooks.
THE arrival of the Apple's iPad in the Brunei market six months ago has created a surge of interest in tablet computers among the young and old as they anticipate more form factor devices from competing brands and manufacturers to make their way into the Sultanate.
Equipped with a touchscreen as a primary input device and long battery life, these new breed of portable machines are tailor-made primarily for various media consumption, such as browsing the web, reading ebooks, watching videos, playing videogames, among others.
It has yet to be seen whether other brands coming up with tablet PCs can knock Apple off its throne, seeing that brand loyalty is strong in Brunei, especially since the iPad arrived in Brunei first and that the majority of Bruneians are using either an iPod or iPhone.
Loyalists of the Apple brand such as 24-year-old Khaliq Zaini agreed that choosing the iPad as the tablet computer device of choice on the market is a "no brainer".
"It's really difficult to convince the rest of the public about why a tablet computer device such as the iPad fits their lifestyle or perhaps a necessity for every mankind, but it makes a whole lot of sense to Apple users," said the collector of iPods.
He said that those who are already familiar with the iphone 'iOS' interface, have claimed using the iPad is a breeze.
"When you are in the Apple ecosystem, getting the iPad somehow completes it. It's a third category device between a smartphone and a computer (laptops and desktops alike), but no other brand can pull it off so well than the geniuses behind the Macs, iPods and iPhones," he added.
"The iPad is currently a hit among Bruneians as there are still no worthy contender to Apple's new form factor device in Brunei. Almost every electronics shop I go to, they are selling iPads as well as iPad accessories, iPad cases, etc. (This) somehow has made the 'iPad' name synonymous to tablet devices among Bruneians," said Mohd Hisyam, a business student from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).
"Of course, the landscape will change soon, when other brands start appearing in our local shops. For now, there is no tablet war, and the iPad is in the lead," he added.
However, not everyone is an Apple follower, and there are folks who do not mind waiting for an alternative to arrive in local electronic store shelves which will offer different, if not better, features over Apple's shiny slate.
Other familiar brands such as Dell, Samsung and Blackberry have recently unveiled their own tablet device which the manufacturers claim will compete with the iPad in that particular market.
Zul Abdul Rahman, marketing executive at Concepts Computers, told The Brunei Times that he has been highly impressed with the Android operating system running on smartphones and said it is the best alternative to the closed nature of Apple's iOS in the mobile device market.
"With the recently announced Android powered tablet computers such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, it would certainly be worth the wait for non-apple fans and serious technophiles such as myself. Choice is good for consumers, and competition is certainly good for business," he said.
The iPad may be popular in Brunei, but they do not penetrate the budget consumers who instead opt for netbook computers such as the HP Mini and the Acer Aspire One for their affordable prices and 'almost' full laptop capabilities in a smaller frame.
"The concept of tablet computers in the current market is that they are secondary devices, meant for people who already have a PC and want a device for portable usage. The iPad still requires a separate computer in order to be fully utilised, so its quite a hefty investment for those with disposable income, but not a wise spending decision for the rest of us," said a primary school teacher from a private school who preferred to be known as Sue.
Despite these issues, she said she believed that the new tablet PCs will eventually evolve from merely an 'accessory' into a more conducive device, particularly in areas of media consumption and education.
"We are slowly transitioning into an era of a paperless world, where children will no longer carry heavy bags loaded with books to school and information will be instantly available in the palm of our hands at a tap of our fingertips. Tablet computers will be the perfect tool for teachers and students, but maybe not now," she added.