The convenience and mobility benefits afforded by tablet computers are showing no signs of slowing interest after record unit shipments and revenues were reported by device vendors in 2012. In 2013, approximately 150 million tablets (up 38% year-over-year) are forecasted to ship globally worth an estimated $64 billion (up 28% from 2012) in potential end-user revenues, according to market intelligence firm ABI Research.
So far, Apple has reigned since the introduction of its iPad in 2010, though Samsung and others continue to erode its early success. About 60% of last year’s tablet shipments used Apple’s iOS operating system software while 37% were based on Google’s Android OS (or development forks of Android, such as found on Amazon’s Kindle Fire slates). The remaining 3% OS share consisted of Windows (Windows 7, 8, or RT), BlackBerry Tablet OS, and unidentified OS implementations.
“The tide is definitely turning toward Android-based tablets, though Apple will not slouch as it feels the competition approaching,” says mobile devices senior practice director Jeff Orr. “The iPad mini was a timely introduction in 2012, though ABI Research remains cautious about the bottom line impact this is having for Apple. The first quarter of 2013 should be the first time where production was able to meet market demand and a better sense of how much 9.7” iPad volume has switched to the smaller, lower-cost mini will be understood.”
The next opportunity is for a vendor challenger to break away from the pack and move closer to Apple. Most would consider Samsung the likely pursuer, though the company was mired in legal proceedings during much of 2012. The success Samsung has seen during the past year with smartphones, Android OS, and the Galaxy Note II is expected to migrate across to tablets in 2013. “A well-executed Samsung tablet strategy could double the company’s market share this year,” adds Orr. Unfortunately, there are few “fast followers” capable of emulating the ownership of technology that Samsung has, suggesting that more innovation is necessary within the Android OS that pulls tablet OEMs closer to Apple.