Can any tablet challenge the iPad?

Majority of prospective tablet buyers plan to opt for an iPad, says a ChangeWave survey. Forrester, meanwhile, points to Amazon as the one vendor that could make a tablet to give the iPad a run for its money.

James Martin/CNET

As the iPad juggernaut continues with today's launch of the iPad 2 , can any other tablet maker truly compete with Apple?

The odds seem to be against it, at least according to the results of a survey released yesterday by ChangeWave Research. Questioning more than 3,000 consumers last month, ChangeWave found that 27 percent of them plan to buy a tablet, 2 percentage points more than a similar poll found last November.

Among those eyeing a tablet, 82 percent said they'll opt for an iPad. That number compares with 4 percent looking into a Motorola Xoom, 3 percent considering Research In Motion's upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook, 3 percent for Samsung's Galaxy Tab, and 8 percent for an assorted array of other tablets.

It's important to note that the survey was conducted before the Xoom was released and before Apple announced the iPad 2, so we don't know if or how the responses would be different now. But another point in Apple's favor is the wave of already happy iPad users.

Among current iPad owners polled by ChangeWave, 70 percent said they're very satisfied with the tablet and another 25 percent said they're somewhat satisfied. Only 2 percent admitted to being somewhat unsatisfied, while apparently no one said they were very unsatisfied with the device.

Curious to see if the iPad was cannibalizing sales away from other devices, ChangeWave asked if there were other gadgets consumers initially planned to buy or that they canceled in favor of an iPad.

A total of 11 percent of those polled pointed to laptops, while 10 percent named Netbooks as devices they rejected in favor of an iPad. E-book readers also were hit, with 17 percent of the consumers saying they opted for an iPad instead of an Amazon Kindle. Another 9 percent collectively decided against other e-readers, including the Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble's Nook.

The impact of the iPad on e-readers has been debated since Apple's tablet launched almost a year ago. One survey conducted in July found that the iPad was putting pressure on sales of e-readers as well as portable game consoles.

But among the range of device makers struggling to compete with the iPad, Amazon is one company that could give Apple a run for its money, according to research firm Forrester. Under this scenario, however, Amazon would compete not with the Kindle but rather with its own branded tablet.

In a blog posted yesterday, Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps pointed to some reasons why rival tablets have struggled against the iPad.

Calling the Xoom, PlayBook, HP TouchPad, and other tablets "solid products with fatally flawed product strategies," Epps said that these devices are too expensive compared with the iPad and don't offer potential customers the user-friendly experience of popping into an Apple store. Those are two reasons why Forrester predicts Apple will grab 80 percent of the U.S. tablet market this year.

Instead, Epps believes Amazon could design and sell a low-cost tablet running Android or Linux with access to its own online store as well as its upcoming Android app store . In doing so, Amazon would be able to skirt past Apple's guidelines on publishers and other app developers who sell content both through the Apple App Store and through their own stores.

Further, Forrester's research shows that consumers want not only cheaper tablets but also ones not tied to expensive data plans from mobile carriers. Amazon could sell such a tablet at or below cost, says Epps, and make its profit by selling content, same as it does with the Kindle.

Finally, Amazon has the brand, content, and channel to tie together a tablet, according to Epps. The analyst cited a survey that found consumers would be more comfortable buying a tablet from a familiar online retailer such as Amazon as opposed to a mobile carrier. And Amazon already sells e-books, videos, games, and other content ripe for digital consumption.

Amazon itself has been looking into launching devices beyond just the Kindle , though no word yet on just what those devices might be.

 

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