PARIS Smartphone maker HTC plans to roll out a range of different tablet computers to gain a foothold in the fast-growing market, a company executive said on Tuesday.
The global market for tablets, started only last year with Apple's iPad, will likely grow to 108 million devices next year, compared with just 17.6 million in 2010, according to research firm Gartner.
"I really believe that the tablet market is really going to be a big market in the future and this is just the start," HTC Europe head Florian Seiche told the Reuters Global Technology Summit.
"In five years' time, schools will have tablets probably instead of physical notebooks. I think that's going to be such a massive wave of additional penetration in society... I think we can't even guess the potential."
Seiche said HTC's first tablet, the Flyer, had made a good start in terms of sales.
"It's early days but we feel very good about it," he said.
HTC should benefit from Nokia's deal to start using Microsoft's software in its smartphones as this will boost Windows' share of the smartphone market, Seiche said.
"It will not change our commitment to Microsoft," he said. "With a new player entering, it should actually help to elevate the relevance of that platform ... we actually feel that we should be able to benefit."
Microsoft's mobile platform has rapidly lost appeal among consumers who have instead picked iPhones, BlackBerrys and phones running on Google's Android platform, which became market leader in the last quarter. It now controls only around 3 percent of the smartphone market.
"The long-term opportunity with Nokia entering will definitely bring Windows back to critical mass," Seiche said at the summit at the Reuters office in Paris.
HTC uses Microsoft software, although its growth has mostly come from smartphones using Google's Android platform.
"Android has had tremendous growth and we believe that this trend is going to continue, definitely," Seiche said. "Android's growth ... is going to expand further to Asia and the emerging markets."
Seiche added that he expects HTC to roll out its first mobile phone using near-field communications (NFC) technology for mobile payments within the next 12 months.
NFC is a short-range way to swap data wirelessly, meaning mobile phones can become a way to pay for goods, store e-tickets or swap photos and business cards.
(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by James Regan)