As the tablet market continues to expand, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt let slip to the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera that the company was planning to directly manufacture tablet devices "of the highest quality" and mentioned a six-month window for production. Google's Android operating system is already running the tablets of major manufacturers like Motorola, HTC and Lenovo. The Google tablet would likely be marketed under the company's Nexus brand, which also includes smartphones.
The technology blog DigiTimes posted an article Dec. 26 that quoted unnamed sources in the PC industry in Taiwan as saying that Google's potential launch of its own tablet could "cause conflict with branded PC vendors who are cooperating with Google to launch Ice Cream Sandwich-based tablet PCs in the first half of 2012".
Tablet market leader Apple is rumored to be releasing the third iteration of its iPad tablet in March or April 2012. In the past few months, reports on the Web have indicated that Apple is planning on some sort of higher-resolution display for the next iPad, possibly of the same quality as the "retina display" currently available in later-model iPhones. The company may also release a small-screen version of the iPad later in 2012.
Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet will power the Android platform to 40.3 percent media-tablet market share in the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 32.4 percent in the third quarter, according to IDC. The IT research firm estimated the media-tablet market grew 24 percent on a sequential basis to 18.1 million units.
For an idea of how the tablet market has ballooned, that unit shipment total is higher than the 18 million units sold in all of 2010, according to IDC. Moreover, the market researcher is seeing such strong demand in this quarter that it has boosted its worldwide shipment forecast for 2011 to 63.3 million units, up from its previous tally of 62.5 million units.
One thing is for certain: Google's proposed tablet and the next iPad will face a somewhat different competitive market than its predecessors. For one thing, Amazon's newly released Kindle Fire-which runs a customized Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS-has a significant chance of dinging the iPad's sales, according to some analysts.
"With our expectations for a new iPad launch during the March quarter leading to potentially lower inventory levels combined with increased competition from the $200 Kindle Fire," T. Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, wrote in a Dec. 5 research note, "we have slightly lowered our December quarter iPad estimates from 14 million to 13 million units."