Tablets based on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform and other operating systems have a better shot at challenging Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad in Europe, but they're still trailing the incumbent in terms of price and content provisions, according to Forrester Research.
The iPad has sold more than 28 million units worldwide since it launched in April 2010. Forrester said the slate has more than 80 percent of the market share in the United States, where it's currently facing limited competition from Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook, HP's TouchPad and Android-based "Honeycomb" tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
However, Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said Aug. 9 that the iPad has 70 percent market share in Europe.
That remaining, addressable 30 percent presents a crucial opportunity for PlayBooks, TouchPads and Android machines from Acer, Motorola and Samsung.
Epps, who surveyed nearly 14,000 consumers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Britain, as well as product strategists from OEMs, phone carriers and retailers, said EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) will account for 14.5 million, or 30 percent of worldwide consumer tablet sales in 2011.
These iPad alternatives may have a better chance of competing with the iPad in Europe than in the United States because Apple has a smaller retail and brand presence there than in the United States. Specifically, Apple has 52 Apple Stores in Europe compared to 238 Apple Stores in the United States.
Of course, there are downsides to the non-iPad rivals' strategies. Epps pointed to the gross fragmentation that exists among non-iPad tablet competition. This is particularly true for Android Honeycomb machines, for which there are multiples OEMs, operators and niche players.
Moreover -- and this is a big problem for most iPad alternatives -- non-iPad tablet prices are too high. The 16GB iPad and iPad base versions begin at $500, while most base Honeycomb tablets are roughly $600.
Epps sees low-cost Android tablets from Huawei and ZTE forcing current Android OEMs to slash their starting prices.
Non-iPad slates are already being discounted in the United States. The 16GB TouchPad started at $500 but was heavily discounted to $380 this weekend by Woot. Amazon began selling the 16GB PlayBook for $499, but that price is now $440.
Finally, iPad rivals can't compete with Apple's content or channel strategy at present. Android arguably has the best opportunity given Google's clout, but there are reportedly only 200-plus Honeycomb-tailored applications, compared to more than 100,000 iPad-specific apps.
But which, specifically, of the Android tablet suppliers has a good shot at challenging the iPad in Europe? Epps said Sony, which has a strong brand and channel presence in Europe, may have some success with its upcoming Sony S1 tablet. However, Sony tends to price high.
In the United States, that challenger could be Amazon, which is expected to sell a low-cost Android tablet this fall for under $300. At that price, the competition could get steeper for the iPad on the domestic front.