The whole who-will-beat-the-iPad meme has seen a lot of revising of late. When the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 came out months ago, people assumed it would cut into the iPad 2's lead. It hasn't happened.
HP's TouchPad failed, until it was heavily discounted. In the last few months the as-yet-unlaunched Amazon Kindle Tablet has been viewed as an Android tablet that can take share versus the iPad.
But let's be honest here. Most people believe the Kindle Tablet is simply going to hijack the largely impotent Android tablet market and take what little share Samsung, Motorola and others own.
Add Microsoft Windows 8 "Metro" tablets, which also have not yet arrived and are in fact several months away, to the pig pile of Android tablet killers.
Jim Dalyrmple on The Loop blog Sept. 21 raised a valid and timely point in revising the argument over what newfangled tablets will unseat the iPad.
"While Microsoft is clearly aiming for the iPad, I don't think Windows 8-based tablets will have much affect on Apple's popular device. Instead, Android tablets will suffer the brunt of Microsoft's market share gains when its partners release products."
"The reason, I believe, is very simple. People are looking for an alternative to existing Android tablets, but nobody is looking to replace the iPad."
Dalrymple backs up his point by acknowledging that Windows PC owners are more than happy to own and use iPads as their mobile media consumption computers. Android smartphone ownership hasn't extended to Android tablet ownership as much as Google would have liked.
Anecdotally, I know this to be true, too. Dalrymple added:
"Microsoft [is] going to have to prove they have a device that can beat the iPad -- I don't think they can do that. What I think they can do is provide users with a viable alternative to Android. It's an alternative that many people will try."
You could argue with that, but it would be feeble or, worse, sound like a misguided anti-Apple agenda. But the fact is that, much as Apple did with the iPod and iPhone before, the iPad is a household brand itself.
I would make the point that one area where Metro tablets, assuming they are any good, would be competitive with the iPad is in the enterprise, where Microsoft's share penetrates deep.
Gartner's new tablet market share numbers bear this out. The researcher expects the iPad to command 46.6 million of the 63.6 million worldwide media tablet sales to end users in 2011. That's nearly 75 percent!
Gartner said Android's tablet market traction has been constrained by high prices, a weak user interface and limited tablet applications.
The silver lining for Android, which is only projected to command 11 percent share of the tablet market this year, is that those iPad numbers are down from 83 percent in 2010. See Gartner's tablet table:
The other silver lining, so long as Google can keep Android from being sued to a standstill, is that IDC expects media tablet sales to top 326 million units in 2015. That's a whole lot of tablet pie that iPad, Android and Windows 8 can share.
I'm not counting the PlayBook here because I think it's headed the way of the TouchPad. RIM just doesn't want to admit it yet.
I'm going to poll analysts and see what they think for a follow-up story on eWEEK.com this weekend.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear whether you agree or disagree. Maybe you think the iPad is headed for a fall no one else can see coming?