iPad Mini Would Contribute to Doubling of 7-Inch Tablet Market: IHS

The debut of a smaller iPad, which Apple is expected to officially unveil today, would electrify the 7-inch tablet market, an IHS report projects.

As the technology world awaits today's widely expected unveiling of a smaller Apple iPad, informally dubbed the iPad Mini or iPad Air, the 7-inch tablet market is already a highly competitive space, with low-cost entries from Amazon and Google stealing market share from the full-size iPad, which costs substantially more and sports a 9.7-inch screen. A report from IHS predicts the arrival of the smaller iPad will “turbocharge” the 7-inch tablet market, helping it to approximately double in 2012 and 2013.

The 7-inch size range will account for 28 percent of all tablets in 2012, up from 24 percent in 2011. Sales are expected to rise about 100 percent this year to 34 million units, up from 17 million in 2011. In 2013, the 7-inch share will rise to 33 percent, while sales will nearly double again, rising 96 percent to 67 million. IHS noted that the report's projections were conservative figures that could be affected not only by demand for a smaller Apple tablet, but how well Apple would be able to meet demand. High expected demand for Apple tablets in Asia could also drive sales to extraordinary levels.

“Just as Apple has dominated the market for 9.7-inch tablets with its iPad, iPad 2 and new iPad models, the company is poised to rule the market for 7.x-inch products, driving rapid growth of the segment in 2012 and 2013,” Rhoda Alexander, IHS director of tablet and monitor research, said in a statement. “The battle in the 7-inch space is highly spirited, with most of the other leading vendors already offering price-competitive products in this size range.

IHS predicts Apple will successfully position the smaller iPad as a device that will be attractive and easy to adopt for both new and returning customers. This will spur rapid sales growth and provide tough competition for other companies contending in this size range.”

Much of the early growth of the tablet and portable smart device (PSD) market has been attributable to the iPad, a device whose sales IT research firm Ovum estimates to represent 54 percent of the market in 2012. Most other tablet and PSD shipments in 2012 will be of devices running variants of Google's Android OS, the company's report noted. The introduction of a 7-inch iPad would represent a change in Apple's approach to its products, company analyst Adam Leach said.

“For the first time in its recent history, it is responding to market pressures from its competitors, namely Google and Amazon, in bringing a smaller tablet to market. Apple in the past has defined new products with new form factors and waited for the market to follow; in this instance, Apple is following the market trend toward smaller, cheaper tablet form factors,” Leach said in a statement. “This reflects a fundamental change in the way Apple operates. Apple is assuming that a lower-cost iPad will allow them to sell sufficiently more units to offset the dilution in average sale price (ASP) that a cheaper device is likely to cause.”