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Summary:

The iPad is making headlines today for dominating the global tablet market during the last quarter, accounting for 95.5 percent of all shipments. It’s a big number, but it’s also a statistic that belies the nature of the clash to come for tablet devices.

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The iPad is making headlines today for dominating the global tablet market during the last quarter, accounting for 95.5 percent of all shipments, according to Strategy Analytics. It’s a big number, and unquestionably a success for Apple, but it’s also a statistic that belies the nature of the clash to come for tablet devices.

Winning the Game It Created

Right now, claiming that Apple is dominating the tablet market is a little like saying Alexander Graham Bell dominated the telephone industry in 1876. By almost all accounts, the iPad forged its own niche, and left competitors scrambling to catch up. But, as with the telephone, that doesn’t mean competitors won’t catch up.

Slaying the Dragon

The situation is similar to (but not the same as) that faced by other device manufacturers when the iPhone was first introduced. Like the iPad, the iPhone was widely embraced by tech enthusiasts and consumers for its ease of use, design and App Store. For a long time after its introduction, the efforts of other handset makers was widely framed as the quest for an “iPhone killer.”

Many of those same companies are now faced with creating an iPad killer, but the climb seems much steeper still since Apple isn’t entering an already dense and competitive market, as it was with the iPhone. But is it really a higher mountain to climb?

The Rest of the Field

The iPad is well-placed to remain the leading tablet device for some time to come; I’m not disputing that. But I do think we’ll see a much more wide open field at this time next year. Whereas with the iPhone, competitors had to worry about both hardware and software gaps between themselves and Cupertino, this time around, device manufacturers have Android. With a growing built-in software distribution platform, and the weight of Google behind it, Android offers something the first companies making prospective iPhone killers didn’t have available to them.

As soon as Android-powered tablets can find the right hardware mix, and refine production practices and parts sourcing to bring prices down, we’ll see a boom in business in their favor. Android accounted for just two percent of global tablet shipments last quarter, but think about what was available. Considering the caliber of Android devices that were on the market, I’d say that’s a success in itself.

Android won’t be the only one elbowing for room in the tablet market, either. BlackBerry is set to release the PlayBook, which will be popular among enterprise customers. Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and ViewSonic look poised to grab a piece of the action, too.

The Stage is Set

Apple has done an amazing thing with the iPad. Its sales to date are tremendous, and it led to consumers embracing tablet computing in a big way. But talking about its market share at this early stage isn’t really saying much of anything at all. The interesting discussion isn’t around where the iPad currently places among its competitors, but about where it will be a year from now.

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  1. This article ignores that there were a decade’s worth of tablets before the iPad. Why didn’t the Alexander Graham Bell telephone analogy apply to THEM? Being first doesn’t inherently mean squat. A product is either right or it’s not.

    As for “the weight of Google”, that weight has already stated the current Android OS is not good for tablets. Some weight. Giving Google credit when they don’t yet have a viable tablet OS—and RIM credit when their trackball OS is already failing in a world that wants touch on smartphones—is inventing competition that doesn’t yet exist.

    I know the technorati really want competition in the tablet space, but it can’t be generated from nothing. They need to call out the latest entrants for what they are: wild attempts at marketing-checklist hardware to get something (anything) out there. Patting them on the back as if they’ve got a shot doesn’t help the race to build a better tablet, it simply encourages mediocrity.

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    1. There was a decade worth of tablets that nobody wanted to use, except those who had to at work. They were expensive, cumbersome, and had patched together software and OSes not designed for touch or pen input.

      For all intents and purposes, Apple created this segment. Or at least brought it to the non-specialized buyer.

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      1. The main problem is that you are compering the iPad to the iPhone instead of the much more analogous iPod.

        The iPod also entered an existing but unpopular digital music player market (Diamond Rio etc.) and made the digital music player category its own. But in-spite of supposedly “good enough”, “open” competitors like “Plays for sure”, later Zune, and now Android, iPod market share hasn’t budged — it is still 70%+.

        Please explain how and why the iPad won’t settle into a 70%+ market share for the long term?

        Hint: The iPod didn’t represent an existential threat to PC makers/Microsoft the way the iPad does.

        Unless they are all completely brain dead, they will try harder to compete against the iPad then they did the iPod. The problem with that straw for the drowning PC makers is that they are depending on Google to bail them out with a working tablet OS, and unlike them, the iPad does not represent a threat to Google — iPad users will use Google more than enough to generate plenty of revenue for it. So Google doesn’t have a big incentive to invest too many resources into tablet versions of Android and/or Chrome OS.

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      2. Immediately after the iPad was announced, the refrain was “The iPad is not original, there have been Windows tablets for years.”

        Now you are insisting that the market that iPad is leading didn’t exist before the iPad, and that because there are no credible competitors yet, we cannot say that the iPad is the leader.

        That seems rather convenient. It’s not a very useful technique, as it is always possible to define your set of interest to serve your own purposes.

        The reason you use to restrict your definition (which I will rephrase as “the other tablets sucked”) is also exactly the reason that a reasonable person would use to describe the market leader.

        If another tablet (let’s call it StupendousPad(tm)) came along that bested the iPad by the same amount that the iPad bested the other tablets, would you define the market as not having existed before this mythical new StupendousTab(tm)?

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      3. I’m glad you mention the “tablets that nobody wanted to use, except those who had to at work.” Because you’re also the one who pointed out that the Blackberry PlayBook “will be popular among enterprise customers” and the HP Slate is “poised to grab a piece of the action”. I’m so very curious to see how enthusiastic the enterprise customers turn out to REALLY be with one tablet that’s built completely on Adobe Air as an OS, and one tablet that has a dedicated CTRL-Alt-Delete hardware button. Not to mention the various disparate others.

        I have every confidence that Enterprise purchasing managers who’ve had no opportunity (or are constitutionally opposed) to ever touch an iPad will find plenty to be giddy about for a month or two with the Playbook or Slate, and then they’ll all decay in the dusty drawer of history. Just like the tablets of the past decade. Meanwhile, the iPad will just casually plod along in its finely polished path, selling at an incredible rate in the consumer space.

        Now, the thing that’s blowing my mind right now is that seven MONTHS after the first iPad sales went off the charts, Google still has no Android Tablet OS baseline spec. Why does everyone seem so unbelievably caught off-guard by Apple?

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    2. LMAO Google doesn’t have a viable smartphone OS let alone tablet OS. But it’s like Windows you use it and get past the blue screens of death or in Android’s case the Force Close. Most people find crap acceptable. Which is fine it’s a free country. But also like Windows it gets better over time. With each iteration Android becomes less crappy than the last.

      RIM has a track record of making rock solid smartphones albeit geared towards messaging with tight big brother control with BES. Which is what makes the Playbook a contender in the without having shipped one out the door.
      The enterprise is already comfortable with Blackberry devices.

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    3. “This article ignores that there were a decade’s worth of tablets before the iPad.”

      And the only thing that decade’s worth of tablets proved, was that resistive screen tablets using a stylus are neither fun nor magical.

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      1. Yes, it’s only the screen that held back all those tablets for the last 10 years…

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  2. Ashutosh Singh Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    The Problem with other players is that everybody is going to reactive to iPad, that means everyone will compare the new tablet with iPad, that is advantage iPad had there was never a big player for tablet area and now iPad is filling it. I always welcome competition it’s always good for consumers, but the only problem with other companies is that they don’t make great products they just depend on Marketing whereas apple never gives a small bit in any area whether it’s marketing or creating a great product.

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  3. IPad competitors have to do more than “find the right hardware mix.”

    They also have to find the right OS, since Google already has said that cuurent Android versions are not designed for tablets. Also, Google is developing a second OS, Chrome, which purportedly is for tablets. So which Google “tablet” OS should buyers consider? Why risk support for either, when one probably will not be used for tablets in the long run?

    Why do writers consistently ignore these facts when writing about Android tablets? It comes directly from Google.

    Alternatively, we have Windows 7. Tablet shoppers have to ask themselves if they really want a tablet running a desktop OS with ill-fitting touch capabilities grafted over top of sofware originally designed to be used with a computer mouse. and why should anyone support potentially unreliable, next-generation software from the company that brought viruses and malware to the world?

    Add to this list unproven, experimental OS options from RIM, Samsung and Nokia and the reality is this: as usual, Apple’s pioneering and elegant solution is the only real choice, at least until H-P’s WebOS ships on a tablet. Now THAT might be the first real competitor to the iPad and iOS.

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  4. Like Tom Reestman already said, they were other tablet already on the market and other came to the market at the same time (JooJoo). But although the market will change a lot next year with all the Android/Win tablet coming to market, one thing that is true is that the iPad does dominate the market right now.

    We can’t forget that the 100% market of tablet last year has been reduced at 4.5% this year, so Apple did sell 95% more iPad this year than any other manufacturer did last year, so yes I think that a market share % that means something.

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  5. This article is almost completely empty of content.

    If GigaOm was going to pick up a writer from “the AppleBlog,” why did they pick the worst one? This guy has a long history of boring, poorly written, stupid articles that don’t have any real content or insight.

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    1. Agreed. One hundred Percent. Just trying to get more people click on an article because it has a catchy title might help the author in the short run. But in the long run, people wouldn’t come to the site itself.

      It is just a rambling of non-sensical, no factual data.

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  6. Darrell, you’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. The fact is that Apple didn’t create the tablet segment any more than they created the MP3 player segment. Apple, for “all intents and purposes,” didn’t create those segments at all. What they did was realize that the current competitors in those segments were terrible and they (Apple) could successfully compete in those segments. What they did was make a superior product such that people flocked to it.

    Microsoft is the most successful software developer in the history of the world. Yet, try as they might, they were unable to get out a successful product with 10 years of attempts. From your picture you look like you might not remember 10 years ago, but tablets were Bill Gates’ dream. Yet, no matter how many billions of dollars and developer hours he threw into it, Microsoft failed to succeed, year after year after year.

    Many years ago, the manufacturers of music synthesizers with names like ARP and Sequential and Oberheim and Moog produced expensive, limited instruments. Yamaha came out with an incredibly powerful and relatively inexpensive instrument and literally put them into receivership overnight. They couldn’t compete even though they created the market.

    It’s the same situation with tablet computing. Those are the fact, sir, and you can come up with your agenda-driven interpretation of those facts–you can even deny them–but that only make you and this blog look sillier than it is.

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    1. You could also add Google and search engines to those facts. Google also had it’s revolution in that market. Competitors didn’t realize it til it was too late. Google had a superior product so everyone used it. The followed with some cool and innovative web services and are very good at some of them. While google’s success is mostly thanks to revolutionizing the web after the dotcom story, android doesn’t fall into that category. Android is a product set for an industry which has just been revolutionized. And it was apple’s revolution. Now that sounds like a hard nut to crack.

      So do they reinvent the concept or add something new and innovative or just copy?
      In the background you can hear E. Schmidt yelling: “get it out! Now!!”

      So they loosely copied and hoped for the best. Added some fancy web services to the mix and some slogans with “open” – the main weakness of their competitor.

      That kinda started falling apart when hardware manufacturer and carriers had other plans for android.

      Just a thought.

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  7. Actually the 95% market means Apple sold millions of iPads and if you take the time to look at the recent qtr reports from the likes of ASUS or other Netbook makers, these sales affected their markets. So to say it doesn’t matter because somebody will make something next year is foolish. Guess what. Apple will make a new iPad next year and I will predict it will outsell all the tablets you mention. Will they get 95% next year, doubtful and then someone like you will point out how Apple failed because they now only have 80% share and Android grew from 0- 20% in a year vs Apple dropping from 90% to 80%. Then we can look at who made any money and guess what Google sells ads and makes more money via Ads on the iPad then all the other tablets combined

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  8. “Tablet” is in need of real definition. the issue is that an Ipad has many features, such as instant on, which are some of the real joys of using it. Compare this to a windows 7 device with minutes of boot time. Also, Apple does wonders with the small cpu and ram allocation. Running win7 on the same specs would be atrocious. There needs to be a definition set as to what the new tablet space is really all about. I would not even consider a full blown OS on a tablet device as a viable tablet device – its just a hacked around netbook.

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  9. I think why this argument is apt has to do with the nature of current iPad usage. Having just been interrupted by a conversation about iPad users and their needs, only reinforces my opinion. What do people do with them? There is a vast range of usage styles. This will prove beneficial for Android tablets.

    Android will have a lot of vertical attention. Applications don’t always need the refinement of a full OS as with iOS. They may only need a small segment of interaction patterns.

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  10. Matthew Frederick Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    “Right now, claiming that Apple is dominating the tablet market is a little like saying Alexander Graham Bell dominated the telephone industry in 1876.”

    Sure, but for how there were, what, 14 telephones? Unlike the 14 million iPads in the first half-year.

    Apple certainly won’t have a Bell-style monopoly a few years from now but their lead is incredibly strong.

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