Android tablets will carve out a bigger chunk of the market, according to a couple of reports, but at least one analyst expects the iPad to dominate for the next 10 years.
Lance WhitneyContributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Android tablets will win over more customers but continue to play second fiddle to Apple's iPad, according to some recent reports and forecasts.
Apple's tablet will dominate the industry for the next 10 years, predicts Needham analyst Charlie Wolf. In a research note released Friday, Wolf is eyeing an 85 percent share for the iPad this year from nearly 100 percent in 2010.
Although that number will gradually shrink each year over the next decade, Apple will retain its lead. And by 2020, the company will still account for a 60 percent slice of the tablet market, predicts Wolf, shipping almost 140 million iPads, compared with 35 million this year.
Despite the flurry of Android tablets targeting consumers, none of them have caught on. One reason cited by Wolf is Apple's huge application marketplace.
"We disagree with pundits who have predicted that the iPad will rapidly lose share to Android tablets," Wolf wrote in his report. "There are over 100,000 applications written for the iPad, compared with a few hundred written [this year] for Android. Unlike a smartphone, which is multidimensional, a tablet's a blank slate without applications."
But there are clearly other reasons for the iPad's success, according to the analyst.
Over the past several months, more non-Apple tablets have flooded the market, including Motorola's Xoom, Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook, and Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad. But Wolf said all of them have been greeted with "a yawn and lackluster sales." Some of the tablets, such as the Xoom and PlayBook, were rushed to consumers with critical features missing, notes Wolf.
Plus, none of the tablet makers have been able to compete with Apple on pricing, since the costs of the iPad's components are lower than those of rival devices.
"Future tablets are more likely to steal share from one another than from the iPad," according to Wolf.
Others, however, are eyeing a somewhat brighter future for Android tablets.
Citing market watchers, a report out yesterday from DigiTimes is calling for shipment growth of 134 percent for non-Apple tablets next year. That compares with a 55 percent gain in shipments for the iPad in 2012.
Claiming that iPad demand is reaching a saturation point, DigiTimes is looking for Android tablet shipments to hit 44 million to 45 million units next year, following 19 million to 20 million this year. iPad shipments will grow to 54 million to 55 million next year, up from 35 million to 36 million this year and 14 million to 15 million in 2010. Of course, these numbers point specifically to shipments and not to actual consumer sales.
DigiTimes is also looking for Google's upcoming Android version, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, to heat up the market. Set to debut by the end of the year, the new OS will reach out to a variety of platforms, including tablets, smartphones, and LCD TVs, a move that "market watchers" believe will convince Apple consumers to switch to Android.
Also scoping out both the iPad and Android, a new report from Forrester Research finds that non-Apple tablets stand a chance of doing well in Europe. But they have their work cut out for them against the iPad juggernaut.
Not counting the United Kingdom, where Apple houses 30 out of its 52 European Apple stores, the iPad maker could be vulnerable to competition abroad, according to Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. Its brand and retail channel presence aren't as consistently robust throughout Europe as they are in the United States. Many countries in Europe also see fewer Mac owners than does the U.S.
Still, Apple continues to dominate in Europe, where the iPad's sell-through rate is 70 percent, which means that non-iPad tablets are languishing in the retail channel rather than in the hands of consumers, while the iPad remains much in demand.
The market for iPad rivals continues to be fragmented and crowded with a variety of manufacturers, operators, and other players, according to Epps. The prices of those tablets remain too high, and no other company has yet to match Apple on its App Store or channel strategy.
"Without a radical Amazon-like disruptor, Europeans are likely to buy an iPad--or wait for something truly different to come along," Epps said.