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Chinese tablet makers diversify to tackle threat from Apple

BEIJING -- Chinese tablet PC makers are trying to diversify their product lines to compete with Apple Inc.'s iPad, finding business opportunities in the Chinese market, said industry experts.

TCL Corp., for example, launched its 26-inch mobile Internet device “iCE screen” in August. In order to diversify its products, the television maker transformed itself into a tablet PC maker. Unlike its competitor LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics Co., TCL chose a size between a tablet PC and an average TV.

LG has just launched an 84-inch 3D TV, which is the biggest flat 3D TV worldwide. Samsung introduced its 75-inch TV to the global market in August.

A 26-inch screen is much bigger than a regular tablet PC but smaller than a normal TV. TCL's Chief Executive Officer Li Dongsheng said tablet PCs are normally 10 inches or 7 inches, while TVs average 40 inches to 60 inches. Therefore, a moveable 26-inch device filled the gap between them.

Unlike tablet PCs, the iCE screen doesn't have a touch screen. It has a remote controller and keyboard set. Users can move from living room to bedroom by carrying it or rely on its two-hour battery outdoors.

“It's a new type of mobile Internet product,” Li said. He predicted that TCL could sell more than 1 million iCE screens within six months.

As a partner of the product, Tencent Holdings Ltd. provided many applications for the device, including popular instant messaging application QQ, QQ music and QQ online album.

“Combined software and hardware providers can optimize technology resources to boost creativity. This is the first time Tencent has developed a household application,” said Ma Huateng, founder and chief executive of the company. Li said his target customers are QQ users, on average aged 15 to 30. TCL plans a second generation product.

According to domestic IT research firm Analysys International, in the first half of 2012 Chinese companies' market share of the tablet PC market was increasing. Even though Apple still dominates the market with a 69.07-percent share, Lenovo held the second slot with about 10 percent compared with close to nothing a year ago.

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