iPad Still Dominates Tablet Market

Latest research from Strategy Analytics (here) reveals that Apple’s iPad still very much dominates the global tablet market – a market which increased by 260% over the last year. 67 million tablets were shipped in 2011 compared to just 18 million in 2010.

The big question is whether this momentum can be maintained – can tablets become a permanent feature of the computing market, or will they eventually retreat into little more than a niche product or expensive toy? iPad global market share decreased from 68% to 58% – that 10% drop was to the rise of Android tablets which increased from in share from 29% to 39%.

However, Microsoft’s market share was a paltry 1.5% – proof of why Microsoft is so desperate for its gamble of a touch-friendly interface in Windows 8 to pay off. It is no surprise that Android tablets have increased market share considering they share 2 fundamental similarities with the iPad:

1. The support and marketing of a global market leader (Google / Apple)
2. The expansion of a smartphone operating system (Android / iOS) to create a synergy of products and easy crossover between the two, allowing widespread and rapid adoption without a steep learning curve.

In my opinion, Android will probably catch up – if only because the iPad is so expensive compared to the much cheaper options offered by many Android tablets. But Android still faces an uphill struggle to overtake the iPad for several key reasons:

  • The Android operating system for tablets is split into a confusing mess with the most common being Froyo and Gingerbread (smartphone OS, especially popular on cheaper tablets), Honeycomb (still rare) and the new Ice Cream Sandwich which looks promising but has yet to make it onto many devices.
  • To complicate matters further, tablets from different manufacturers often include heavily customized versions of Android with differing features which makes it harder to compare or switch between them.

Apple’s iPad is a much simpler proposition with easy updates to the latest version of iOS, consistent features and just one manufacturer to ensure total consistency across devices.

  • Android’s Market is often portrayed as a Wild West zone where malicious rogue apps can run riot. Whilst this risk is perhaps overplayed (and users can reduce it further by using common sense when choosing apps), it is certainly true that Android tablets are potentially exposed to far more security risks than the iPad.

Apple’s app store is extremely well vetted – it’s not perfect but it is much rarer for it to suffer from a bad app-le, if you’ll forgive the pun…

  • Android tablets are available in a myriad of guises and target vastly different sectors of the global market – high end iPad competitors, mid range Playbook/Fire rivals and the unbranded bargain basement Chinese clones.

The iPad is just one tablet (albeit with a few specification options) which remains firmly wedded to the high end market and is ‘reassuringly expensive’ – if you believe price equals quality (or want a status symbol) then it’s an easy choice.

What Does 2012 Have In Store?

The increasing availability of cheap Gingerbread tablets helped fuel the rise of Android in 2011 and lured new users into the tablet market but in some cases they actually cheapened the Android brand – poor tablets with resistive screens, slow processors and issues accessing the full Market will not have endeared Android to technophobes who were attracted by a low price tag and (very naively) thought they were getting an iPad clone.

However, in 2012 the technology has caught up and many of the new Android tablets include much better processors, capacitive screens and more RAM. Having just used such a cheap device, it isn’t an iPad killer by any means but it is a very capable tablet – at less than a third of the price. The race is definitely on.