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Android poised to overtake Apple in tablets, ABI says

Apple shipped half of all tablets in the first quarter, but the popularity of low-cost Android tablets in China is boosting that OS.

Apple's iPad Mini Sarah Tew/CNET
Apple's iPad has dominated the tablet market since it first launched, but that's going to change.

Apple exited the first quarter of the year with 50 percent share of all tablet shipments, but Android is poised to overtake iOS in tablets, ABI Research said Thursday. The tech research firm didn't provide a timeline for the shift but said the big variable for Android is China.

The country is "passionate about the Apple brand," ABI said, but smaller, 7-inch Android tablets grown in popularity. A push for low-cost tablets, generally less than $200, keeps Android relevant in both developed and emerging markets, ABI said.

"It's inevitable that Android tablets will overtake iOS-powered slates, though we see no single vendor challenging Apple's dominance anytime soon," Jeff Orr, ABI senior practice director, said in a statement. "With media tablets commercially available for more than four years, momentum is shifting toward value and affordability, putting tablets in more of the population's reach."

The firm noted that the average selling price and size of tablets have been falling since last year. Fellow tech research firm IDC made similar comments earlier this week, saying that within two quarters, the sub-8-inch tablet category overtook the larger-sized segment in terms of total shipments. IDC predicts 55 percent of tablet shipments this year will be in the smaller-screen segment. Meanwhile, the firm noted the average selling price for tablets should drop 11 percent in 2013 to $381.

Apple has controlled the tablet market since essentially inventing the category in 2010. No operating system or vendor has been able to unseat the Cupertino, Calif., electronics giant, but tablets with smaller screens and lower prices have quickly been gaining popularity. That caused Apple to introduce its own smaller tablet, the iPad Mini, late last year. Traditional PC makers, meanwhile, are expected to launch Windows 8 devices with smaller screens later this year.