Netbooks, take note. Hot sales of Apple's iPad is attracting a growing group of developers to a new generation of stylish, multimedia tablet devices that could be the next big thing for on-the-go computing. New tablet offerings from Taiwanese firms such as MSI and China's Hanwang are on show in Taiwan this week at Computex, with models specialising in everything from reading books to taking pictures from a webcam fixed on the top of a bright touchscreen to general Web surfing. Some say tablets could soon take sales from netbook computers — the low-priced darlings – that debuted at Computex three years ago and were one of the PC industry's few bright spots through the global economic slowdown. “I have never seen a singular device that has captured the imagination of so many companies in the world,” said Huang Jen-hsun, chief executive of Nvidia, which has launched new processors to power tablets and laptops. “It's logical because it is about enjoying content,” said Huang, who was in Taipei to promote his company's processors at Computex, the world's second-largest PC trade fair.

Like netbooks, tablets are relatively cheap, drawing on lower-cost processors and software to often sell for $500 or less. Their prices are likely to fall further as sales grow. Apple and other large players, along with their parts suppliers, are set to gain most, possibly at the expense of major netbook sellers including Asustek and Acer. Tablet PCs may be especially suited for reading-type applications such as e-books and other applications that don't require a lot of typing on a separate keyboard.

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