Chinese computer-maker Lenovo Group, the fourth largest vendor of computers worldwide, has launched its new tablet computer LePad to take on Apple’s iPad and plans to launch two or three more new tablet computers later this year.

LePad, which is based on the Android 2.2 operating system, was launched in Shanghai with a starting price of 3,499 yuan ($ 533) against the iPad’s $ 800 price tag.

LePad comes in two versions that support Wifi and 3G services.

For the time being, Lenovo said LePad will be sold only in China, but it will be marketed internationally from June.

Chen Xudong, the vice-president of the company, refused to provide sales forecasts for the LePad, but said the company plans to capture more than 30 per cent of China’s tablet computer market during the next two to three years.

He also said that Lenovo’s tablet computers will run between 5,000 and 8,000 applications by the end of the year.

Since its debut in April last year, iPad sales have reached 15 million.

On March 2, Apple launched the iPad 2, which includes a major hardware upgrade and cut the price of the iPad 1.

Chen said that Apple’s price-cutting strategy would put some pressure on companies such as Lenovo, but emphasised that Apple’s strategy has also hurt many of its sales partners in China, where the coverage of the Apple stores is still limited.

The recent earthquake in Japan has disrupted the supply chain for many technology companies and that may delay the Chinese debut of the iPad 2, he told the China Daily.

According to market intelligence provider IDC, Chinese consumers had purchased at least 800,000 iPads by the end of 2010.

The research firm estimated that about 2.5 million tablet PCs will be sold through official channels in China this year, more than doubling the number in 2010.

Mr. Chen said that Lenovo plans to launch a new tablet computer for corporate users over the next two quarters.

It will also launch the second version of its tablet computer, LePad, in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Like personal computers, different users will have different demands for tablet computers,” he said. Mr. Chen said compared with traditional desktops and all-in-one computers, notebooks and netbooks will be most affected by the popularity of tablet computers.

He noted that in future, notebooks may have to install a mobile operating system that is more responsive to consumers’ needs.

Chen Danqing, a spokesperson for Lenovo said the company also plans to launch a ThinkPad tablet computer in the near future.

According to figures from IDC, China’s PC market grew by only 4 per cent in the fourth quarter last year, compared to 38.8 per cent growth in the first three months of this year.

Mr. Chen Xudong predicted that the country’s PC market will grow by 10 per cent this year.

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