The US Tablet Computing Market: Patent Trends and Insights

As the struggle for smartphone supremacy continues, mobile device manufacturers now have a new arena in which to wage battle – the tablet market.  Though Apple still claims the lion’s share of the United States market with its iPad line, Apple’s competitors have been hard at work developing innovative tablet technologies to eclipse Apple’s stronghold.  LG, Samsung, Motorola, RIM and HP each have released competing tablets in the past 6 months; we expect the next 6 months alone to bring another generation of change and technical advances to the tablet market.

We have provided an intellectual property-based assessment of the major tablet contenders, unlocking future roadmaps and highlighting potential technologies each may bring to the market.

By analyzing the patent filings of companies in the tablet market, we have identified which aspect of tablet technology each company has focused its research and development efforts on, giving insight into upcoming product and feature offerings.

Our research shows that LG and Samsung overwhelmingly lead the group by the sheer volume of tablet-related patent applications each has filed.  This suggests that the pair is focused on reaping benefits from both licensing their patents as well as commercializing them for their respective tablet lines.

Apple appears to selectively file patent applications on technologies it believes will be highly disruptive, and then subsequently introduces these technologies in each successive generation of its iPad line.  Apple does not seem concerned at obtaining licensing revenues, as its main focus is on innovating its own product lines.

Our research also reveals that in recent years RIM and Motorola have both been active in the tablet technology space, developing competency in select niches relative to competitors as they attempt to catch up with their more established rivals.

Innovation Outlook: Key companies to watch based on future tablet releases.

Apple (Innovator) – Apple will continue to release innovations in Graphical User Interface (GUI), display hardware and multimedia-related features to set the next generation of iPads apart from the competition.

LG and Samsung (Innovators) – With extensive patent application portfolios covering virtually every aspect of tablet technology, manufacturing and licensing deals with Apple for the iPad line as well as highly-marketed tablet lines of their own, these two companies will benefit from sales of their devices, as well as from the success of next generation iPad devices.

Motorola (Early Adopter) – Expect Motorola to have at least another generation of its Xoom line, as Motorola has invested significantly in IP for core tablet areas, such as GUI and display hardware, which may not require it to license third-party technologies.

RIM (Early Adopter) – Expect RIM to release another generation of its PlayBook device, as the company has invested significantly in IP for core tablet areas, and in recent years increased investments in usability technologies, such as multimedia and sensor reactions.  RIM also has potential to license its tablet technology, especially related to wireless communications, as it is a major holder of tablet-related patent applications that it may not fully commercialize.

Dell and HP (Followers) – With limited US patent filings surrounding tablet technology, and minimal unique features on their current tablet devices (likely due to a lack of proprietary technology and/or the inability to obtain licenses from competitors), expect these two companies to offer little innovation in the near future.

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