Toshiba U.S. PC sales surge, slates coming

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Toshiba Corp’s personal computer sales in the United States jumped 50 percent in the first quarter, and the company said it was preparing to roll out tablet-style computing devices later this year to compete with Apple Inc’s iPad.

Jeff Barney, general manager of digital products for Toshiba America, said Toshiba plans to launch so-called “slate” PCs this year, running on both Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Google’s mobile Android operating systems.

Toshiba is looking at a variety of form factors for its slate PCs, including a dual-screen model running Windows, and one with a roughly 10-inch screen, he said.

“We definitely see a place for the slate, we see there’s a market there. It’ll be expansive like netbooks, it won’t be cannibalistic,” he said.

An Android device would likely have a lower price tag, while a Windows-based model would be more expensive, he said.

“Media consumption on these slates will be the main user activity,” Barney said, adding that the company was lining up partners to provide content.

The Android device would be able to tap the thousands of programs on offer in the Android Market, which is currently accessed primarily by smartphone users.

The market for tablet computers is expected to grow to as many as 50 million units in 2014, according to research group In-Stat. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell Inc will also release devices this year.

Barney said Toshiba shipped 1.5 million PC units in the January-March period in the United States, benefiting from strong consumer demand.

Average selling prices, which have been falling for some time, leveled off in the quarter, he said, as component costs stabilized.

Barney said he expected 35 percent growth in the U.S. consumer PC market over the next six months, and single-digit growth from enterprise customers. Consumers make up roughly three-fourths of Toshiba’s U.S. PC sales.

Toshiba is the world’s No. 5 PC maker, according to industry tracker IDC, and the No. 4 vendor in the United States.

“The consumer market is doing very well for us, particularly at retail,” Barney said.

Reporting by Gabriel Madway; editing by Gunna Dickson and Ted Kerr