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Android makes tablet gains, but iPad to stay strong in 2011, say studies

Mar 11, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Apple's share of the media tablet market fell to 73 percent in 4Q 2010, due to the arrival of Android tablets led by the Samsung Galaxy Tab, says IDC. Still, the iPad will maintain a 70-80 percent share in 2011, the research firm adds, while Forrester puts the figure at 80 percent, and projects that only could mount significant competition via a color Kindle.

With today's launch of the iPad 2, Apple hopes to continue its domination of the consumer media tablet market. Yet, Android tablets have  established a beachhead, led by the Samsung Galaxy Tab, says a new IDC tablet study. Apple's share of the global tablet market fell from 93 percent in the third quarter of 2010 to 73 percent in the fourth quarter, says the research firm, as reported in our sister publication eWEEK

IDC did not disclose how much of the remaining 27 percent was represented by Android tablets, but said that Samsung's Android 2.2-based, seven-inch Galaxy Tab (pictured) closed out the year with 17 percent of the market on its own. Overall, some 10.1 million media tablets shipped during the fourth quarter, more than double the 4.5 million that were said to have shipped in the third, says IDC.

Despite Android's surge, IDC expects that Apple's iPad and iPad 2 will maintain a 70 percent to 80 percent share of the fast-growing market in 2011, out of some 50 million total units expected to ship by the end of the year. Diverging from some analyst firms, such as RBC, which sees faster growth for Android tablets, IDC expects the iPad 2 to fend off challenges from a host of 10.1-inch Android 3.0 tablets due in the coming months, led by the now-shipping Motorola Xoom and soon to ship Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Still, Android tablets are expected to own most of the remaining share, followed by the Research In Motion (RIM) PlayBook and HP's WebOS-based TouchPad

IDC: E-reader market stays strong in 4Q

IDC tracks the e-reader market separately from tablets, despite the fact that its tally includes multimedia-enabled color devices such as the Barnes & Noble Nook Color (pictured), which many see as a major competitor to media tablets. IDC says that despite the fast growth of multipurpose color tablets, the worldwide e-reader market "picked up significantly in the fourth quarter."

The e-reader market more than doubled in volume from the previous quarter, with more than six million units shipped, bringing the full-year total to 12.8 million units shipped, says IDC. The increase was pegged largely to "strong sales of Amazon's Kindle," as well as "significant gains from competitors such as Pandigital, Barnes & Noble, Hanvon, and Sony among others," according to the research firm.

Forrester: Only Amazon can take on the iPad

Forrester Research is even more confident than IDC that Apple will hold on to its tablet lead. In a study of the U.S. tablet market, Forrester projects that the iPad 2 alone will claim 80 percent of the tablet market in 2011, as reported in another eWEEK story.

Apple's projected 80 percent share of the U.S. consumer tablet market through 2011 represents a 10 percent drop from its 90 percent share in 2010 when the first iPad sold 15 million units, says the study.

According to a Mar. 10 analysis of the study, Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said that the new Android tablets, as well as the TouchPad and PlayBook, are "solid products with fatally flawed product strategies." In short, the devices are too expensive and can't compete with the Apple Store channel, writes Epps.

Enter as a potential dark horse challenger to the iPad hegemony, which is supported by a thriving, but closed ecosystem of tightly controlled hardware, software, and applications.

"It would be easy to call the game for Apple as the second inning is starting, but we won't, because we see a market that's ripe for disruption by Amazon in particular," Epps writes.  "Amazon could create a compelling Android- or Linux-based tablet offering easy access to Amazon's storefront (including its forthcoming Android app store) and unique Amazon features like one-click purchasing, Amazon Prime service and its recommendations engine."

With a rumored color media tablet version of Amazon's Linux-based Kindle (pictured), most likely switching to Android, Amazon could demand immediate attention in the marketplace, suggests Epps. Amazon could also offer users an alternative to the stringent rules Apple has created for ebook sellers and publishers that require in-application payments, she argues.

In addition, Amazon could also sell a tablet at or below cost, recouping its expenses by selling content. This model, Epps says, would be preferable to the model Motorola, Samsung, and others are using to sell their tablets via carriers at a subsidized price.

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