Computer manufacturers of all sizes and descriptions have been pushing to get a piece of the ever-expanding tablet market created by the launch of Apple’s iPad in April 2010.

The obsession with tablet computing will be on full display tomorrow as Computex, the world’s second-largest computer show, begins its annual five-day run in Taipei.

The prominence of tablets underscores a dramatic shift under way in the personal computer industry and is keenly felt in Taiwan, which is home to some of the world’s biggest PC manufacturers as many consumers opt to buy a tablet rather than a new PC. Computex will feature more than 50 tablet models, said an organiser of Taipei Computer Association, with big names including Lenovo Group Ltd and Toshiba Corp having their products on display. Researchers have predicted slower growth in PC sales this year because of the rising consumer interest in tablets. Gartner Research recently cut its sales growth forecast for global PC sales in 2011 from 15.9 percent to 10.5 percent. According to IHS iSuppli, world PC shipments declined 0.3 percent year on year to 8.1 million units in the first quarter of 2011, with sales by the number three-ranked Acer plunging to 20 percent.

Many analysts say it may take up to two or three years before mobile device software from Google Inc and Microsoft Corp can catch up with the iPads that have thousands of applications for consumers to choose from. That may mean a hard time for many PC makers in the short term.

Research Company IDC says Apple Inc had a 73 percent share of the tablet market in the last quarter of 2010. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co was a distant second with 17 percent.

It said 2010 tablet sales totalled 18 million units. IDC expects Apple to account for 70-80 percent of 2011 tablet sales that it predicts will reach 50 million units.

Besides tablets, Computex will also feature corporate and home servers and other cloud-based computing equipment and services, a sector Taiwanese firms have recently entered to make up for shortfalls in PC sales. Cloud computing involves running applications in web browsers. The world’s top contract laptop manufacturer, Taiwan-based Quanta Computer Co. is among those producing servers for global firms such as Google. The cloud allows users to store and retrieve data over the Internet whenever it is needed, instead of saving it on their own computers.