AT&T sees future in tablets beyond iPad

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) believes tablets will become a dominant force in the device market in the coming years, top executives said, and the company is looking to capitalize on the market opportunity beyond the one it has found with Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad.

"There's going to be a huge number of tablets, different sizes, different functions," AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega said in an interview with Bloomberg. However, the AT&T chief declined to comment on whether the carrier will launch Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) rumored tablet, which is being dubbed the BlackPad.

Apple sold a total of 3.27 million iPad tablets during its most recent quarter; AT&T provides data support for the 3G models of the tablet in the U.S. market. AT&T also recently launched Dell's Android-powered Streak tablet, which features a 5-inch screen, for $300 with a two-year contract.

However, it is in larger devices that AT&T thinks there is a real future. "You're going to see those 10-inch pieces of glass become full-on computers," Glenn Lurie, president of AT&T's emerging devices and resale division, told Bloomberg. Lurie said he thinks there will be a wide array of tablets coming to market within the next five years that will cost between $300 and $1,000, and could make laptops obsolete. 

A slew of vendors are prepping tablets for the market in the coming months. Samsung recently teased its Android-powered GalaxyTab, which it likely will unveil early next month. LG is working on Android tablet, Hewlett-Packard has confirmed it will be releasing a webOS tablet early next year, and Motorola (NYSE:MOT) is reportedly working on its own Android tablet device. 

Lurie also reiterated that if AT&T loses its exclusive U.S. rights to Apple's iPhone, such a move will not cut into its sales. "We're still going to be plugging along with the kind of rates we're doing now, and the kind of success we're having today," he said. He declined to comment on when AT&T's exclusivity with Apple might end.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article

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AT&T to launch Dell Streak Android tablet for $300
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