The Apple iPad accounted for 85 percent of worldwide media tablet sales in 2010, ABI Research reported April 20. While the research firm expects the demand for tablets to possibly level off toward 2015 or 2016, sales are expected to remain strong for the next several years as more and more of these mobile devices flood the market.
"We expect between 40 and 50 million media tablets to ship worldwide in 2011," ABI Senior Practice Director Jeff Orr said in a statement.
While Apple controls the lion's share of the market-a position it is expected to maintain at least through 2015, according to Gartner-second position, albeit a distant one, went to Samsung, which secured 8 percent of the globe's tablet market share in 2010, according to the report. Archos, accounting for 2 percent of the market, earned the still-more-distant third-place prize.
With Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Lenovo, Research In Motion, Motorola, HTC and others all joining the tablet market fray, that breakdown is far from carved in stone, said Orr.
"Many new entrants are looking to differentiate themselves from the $600+ [average selling price] of the iPad, so low-feature and low-cost designs will become common," he continued.
To point, Archos, a brand with hardly the cachet of some of its smartphone-making competitors, managed to get itself onto the podium with Apple by appealing to the tightening of purse strings. In September 2010, it introduced five Android-running tablets priced from $99 to $349. The tablets, with screen sizes from 2.8 to 10.1 inches, offer Web browsing, online gaming, HD video, access to ebooks, social networks and applications, and 1GHz processors.
Apple has proved, however, that a good number of consumers and enterprise IT buyers have no trouble with the iPad's price point. When reporting its fiscal 2011 second-quarter earnings April 20, the company announced that it sold 4.7 million iPads during the quarter, which ended March 26 and so included the release of the iPad 2. During a call with media and analysts, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer noted, "We sold every iPad 2 that we could make during the quarter."
The surge in sales during the second half of 2010, Orr noted, wasn't only for tablets. "Device categories including netbooks and mobile broadband-enabled ebook readers showed gains in year-over-year shipment numbers in 2010," Orr explained. "The hype that media tablets were displacing portable computers and dedicated CE device purchases simply didn't become a reality."
While tablets aren't exactly replacing PCs, they're nonetheless affecting their sales. In March, analysts at Gartner lowered their PC shipment projections for 2011 and 2012. The firm now expects shipments this year to grow by 10.5 percent, instead of 15.9 percent, and 2012's shipments to grow by 13.6 percent instead of 14.8 percent.
"We once thought that mobile PC growth would continue to be sustained by consumers buying second and third mobile PCs as personal devices," Gartner Research Director George Shiffler said on March 3. "However, we now believe that consumers are not only likely to forgo additional mobile PC buys but are also likely to extend the lifetimes of the mobile PCs they retain as they adopt media tablets and other mobile PC alternatives as their primary mobile device."