Apple iPad Holiday Sales May Underwhelm: Report

Apple iPad fourth-quarter sales may come in below estimates, warns one analyst, who also suggests rival tablets will underperform in the marketplace.

Apple's iPad may encounter a holiday sales slowdown, according to Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar. While analysts have estimated iPad sales at 6 million units for the fourth quarter, Kumar now states that Apple-along with other tablet makers such as Samsung-could have some trouble meeting those numbers.

Kumar's research note to the firm's clients, reproduced widely by Websites such as Bloomberg and Fortune, hints that Apple's supply chain will be unlikely to meet that 6-million-units figure. Kumar also posits that the new MacBook Air could cannibalize the iPad's customer base, although he cites no hard figures to back that assertion.

Perhaps more worrisome for the overall tablet market, though, is Kumar's suggestion that both the Dell Streak and Samsung Galaxy Tab are experiencing low sell-through rates.

"We do not see Tablets go the way or netbooks," he writes, as quoted by Fortune. "But if current trends continue, the Tablet market may not end as much more than iPads or a tweener product between smartphones and next-generation thin-and-light notebooks a la MacBook Air."

On top of that, Kumar believes consumers' cost-consciousness could also weigh down sales: "It's a nice-to-have product, for those of us who don't have a budget, but is it a must-have product? I don't think so."

Nonetheless, other analysts generally expect the tablet market to increase over the next few years. "The tablet wars are up and running," Neil Mawston, a director for research firm Strategy Analytics, wrote in a Nov. 2 statement accompanying a report on the tablet market. "Apple has quickly leveraged its famous brand, an extensive retail presence and user-friendly design to develop the tablet market into a multibillion-dollar business. Android, Microsoft, MeeGo, WebOS, BlackBerry and other platforms are trailing in Apple's wake, and they already have much ground to make up."

Despite Strategy Analytics' estimates that Apple holds 95.5 percent of the worldwide tablet market, other manufacturers seem enthused to make their own play to customers.

Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy Tab will be offered on five major U.S. carriers, and RIM is reportedly planning to market its upcoming PlayBook for less than $500 in North America. On Nov. 12, Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing told The Wall Street Journal that his company would launch a tablet PC in the U.S. market starting in 2011.

Those companies, along with analysts from Gartner and other firms, assume that the tablet market will continue to grow at a pace capable of absorbing these new products. J.K. Shin, president of Samsung's mobile business, reportedly told an audience during a Nov. 4 press conference in Seoul that more than 1 million Galaxy Tab units would sell in 2010, and that his company was actively preparing "other kinds of tablet devices."

However, if the tablet market proves weaker than expected, those companies could find themselves in retreat.