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Summary:

Research firm DisplaySearch predicts that Apple will continue to control the tablet market until 2013, and the tablet segment will continue to see rapid growth overall. But might Apple’s dominance in this space be of an even longer-lasting variety?

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Apple will remain firmly seated at the head of the table when it comes to the sale of tablet devices through 2012, according to new analyst estimates. Research firm DisplaySearch predicts Apple will continue to control the tablet market for at least the next two years, and the segment will continue to see rapid growth. But might Apple’s dominance in this space be of an even longer-lasting variety?

DisplaySearch estimates the iPad 2 will sell approximately 40 million units in 2011, which represents significant growth over the 15 million original iPads sold in the first year following its launch. That will be out of a total of 60 million tablet devices sold during all of 2012, which would mean competitors to Apple’s platform will gain little traction in 2012.

The research firm also predicts a massive explosion in tablet market growth by 2016, when it expects to see 260 million tablet devices shipped worldwide. Consider that 351 million PCs shipped in 2010, and by 2016, tablet sales may have cut into that number considerably, and we could see a market where tablets match or even exceed traditional PC sales.

DisplaySearch believes that beginning in around 2013, Apple’s tablet competitors will have finally have caught up to Apple and be nearing their sales volume (though that’s all competitor sales added up, not taken individually, so Apple will still be the dominant force in the market). While competitors may yet gain a significant foothold, I have to disagree with DisplaySearch’s assumption that the market will eventually open up as much as it predicts.

The research firm is laboring under the impression that the iPad’s growth trajectory will mirror that of the iPhone, but a more apt comparison is the iPod. As with its media player, Apple entered the tablet game when there was relatively little competition, and none that already had considerable market presence. The iPhone came into a cell phone market already rich with strong competitors, like Nokia and BlackBerry. The iPod still had a 73.9 percent share of the media player market in 2009, according to NPD. The iPad may have made some space for competitors in the most recent market share surveys, but it doesn’t follow that it will continue to cede ground at that rate.

Apple will win the tablet market for another two years, as DisplaySearch predicts, but don’t expect it to stop there. The iPad is a category-defining device, just like the iPod, and failing to account for that in any projections will lead to gross underestimations of its ability to continue to succeed.

  1. “60 million tablets” are predicted to be sold this in 2012. Ahem.

    Do you mean 60 million tablets are predicted to be SHIPPED in 2012?????

    Samsung uses the term “SELL-IN” for their sales numbers. These are the number of Galaxy Tabs that are SHIPPED to dealers. Samsung DOES NOT DIVULGE their “SELL-OUT” numbers – the ACTUAL SALES TO CONSUMERS.

    Apple only divulges ACTUAL SALES to consumers.

    And when it comes to ACTUAL SALES TO CONSUMERS, Apple has a 90% SHARE of the market.

    Thus, of the 60 million in “sales” of tablets predicted in 2012, there will be 44 Million in ACTUAL SALES TO CONSUMERS. Apple will have ACTUAL SALES TO CONSUMERS of 40 MILLION iPads. And competitors to Apple will have 4 million actual sales to consumers (SELL-OUTS). And competitors will have 16 million “SELL-INS” – meaning UNSOLD tablets that are SITTING ON THE SHELVES of dealers.

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    1. James, you’re totally right about the difference in “sell out” and “shipped” but I’m still wondering about Apple’s data because it sells the iPad through many retailers such as Best Buy, Tablet, WalMart, etc…. does Apple have the exact data from each of them on how many devices are sitting on the shelves? Sure they know the inventory and sales for their own line of stores, but I’m not sure they have exact numbers from all the retail partner locations in an on-demand basis. Something I think we should check on… could put this whole discussion in a different light.

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      1. Don’t iPads have to be activated?

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        1. Excellent point, and I think Apple would refrain from using the word “activated” in lieu of “sales” due to Google’s use of the term. Thx!

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      2. Think about this. The iPad sold out. Meaning, it was no longer available in stores, meaning, sold-out.

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    2. Andrew Macdonald Wednesday, March 16, 2011

      Genuine question, do you think PUTTING SENTENCES IN CAPS makes your argument more COMPELLING??

      Caps just makes it look like you are having a rant or shouting at us, whereas if you read your entire comment, you have some very valid points that I completely agree with.

      The caps though add nothing to your comment other than people automatically thinking you are ranting at somebody.

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  2. The iPad isn’t just a “category-defining device,” it also has a category-defining ecosystem. Competitors are already caught in a devil’s circle: Without enough devices on the market to create momentum, they can’t create an ecosystem and without an ecosystem no one wants to buy their devices. Giving Apple another year or two head start will only make matters exponentially worse for them.

    In fact, it will be much worse for them than the iPod domination. Why? Because most people ripped their music from CDs (or from the internet) which meant they could change mp3 players at a moment’s notice and transfer their entire libraries with no problem. You can’t do that with apps.

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    1. Agreed. I love Apple but it would be sad to see them controlling 90% of a market. Competition is needed. Now just releasing me-too products won’t make it. To compete with Apple you have to think Device + Ecosystem + Something new. Perhaps the ecosystem could leverage the Internet instead of an iTunes and App type of store. It could be about tapping web app stores all across the web. Something more open. As long as it works easy and beautifully, another model could find success. But it has to be a complete thing! Basically you have to “Think More” because the Apple guys already “Think Different” ;-)

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      1. I disagree with you AK. No other company was competing with Apple when they released the iPad. Remember, Apple’s greatest competition is Apple.

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      2. @djmactech, so you would not mind a single company (even Apple) controlling more than 80% of the tablet market?

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      3. AK: Let me add my five cents, because I think your question is good? The question is in part about if the gadget in question lends itself to market competition. Can there be a working market competition of OSs? – a bit like Apple had to walk on water to survive with Mac OS, and even then today Windows is hovering around 90 %. I also think that particular situation kind of attests to that competition is maybe not naturally good or even existing – it’s often more like glorified history.

        Now, in the case of the iPad, would *I* want Apple to have 90 %? That depends on what the cost is. I wouldn’t actually want some quite lackluster Android tablets manage to take over the market just because of price. So the question to me is what the competition will be based on, and naturally it’s not clear that Apple will lose in any case.

        Would you want Apple to lose absolute domination, market leadership – at any cost – or are you satisfied with the threat? I’d love to read your thoughts.

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      4. @AK; @Synth: Actually you are both right. Apple’s main competition, leading to innovation is Apple. At the same time lack of external competition is a bad thing. Example: content based censorship.

        As the iPad becomes the book/magazine/newspaper reader of choice, we hardly need someone in Cupertino Disneyfying the content for our protection. Having at least *some* competition will help keep such Apple excesses in check.

        On the other hand it is unlikely that “me too” junkware coming from Android will push Apple towards any tech innovation. There Apple must depend on Apple.

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      5. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just saying that Apple is going to rule the slate market just like they did the mp3 player market. And giving them a two year head start will make things much, much worse for the competition because the ecosystem is much more important with the iPad.

        More “open” won’t guarantee anything. Linux was open but went nowhere on the PC. Symbian was “open” but went nowhere on the cell phone. Windows and Office are completely “closed” to outside tinkering but they have ruled the desktop for around 30 years.

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  3. I’m sorry if I’m a bit sceptical here, but I’m not sure that a display panel research group is exactly the most qualified to be assessing the market of tablet computers.

    I understand the desire to print anything about the iPad, but are there no grains of salt to be taken with these figures?

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  4. Hamranhansenhansen Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Yeah, iPad is much more like iPod than iPhone:

    – younger market
    – sold unsubsidized
    – primary purpose is running downloadable content (music for iPod, apps for iPad)
    – discretionary item (not a necessity like a phone)
    – replaces a strong single vendor in the previous generation market (Sony in cassette/CD music players, Microsoft in low-end consumer PC’s)
    – analysts say “MP3 player” and “tablet” like it is a generic category, but consumers say “iPods” and “iPads”
    – quickly outsold all previous MP3 players and tablets from all manufacturers
    – cheaper generic products with the same features predicted immediately, never materialize
    – competitors obviously don’t get that iTunes is 51% of the product because of 1-click downloads and easy device management

    My prediction is Apple will maintain 75% of the market over the first 10 years, just like iPod.

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  5. Various companies are finding ways to beat Apple. These companies would create tablets which are more advanced than Apple’s. Anyway, Apple applications that are available are numerous and efficient.

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  6. The iPad (re)defined the tablet category (first tablet with easy-to-use mobile-touch OS) no more than iPhone did in phones (first phone with easy-to-use all-touch-metaphor interface).
    Both are innovative, but the difference in share is down to the competition (weaker for iPad) and the ability to protect against low-end competition (better for iPad).
    “Category Defining”, Schmategory Defining.
    Some more: http://myperfectstartup.com/2011/03/16/creating-new-categories

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  7. I’m not as convinced as you guys. Its not that I think the iPad is a bad product but you guys tend to forget that the iPod went unchallenged in the MP3 market, none of the major manufacturers really put that much effort into it. There were no GOOD MP3 players released, HP, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, none of the major PC manufacturer decided to go head to head in the MP3 market. Microsoft made an effort with their Zune but the MP3 player market was never viewed as the next generation of computing, it was a music entertainment device.

    Now you get a market which is essentially touch screen PC replacements. Also now you get players like HP who is the biggest PC manufacturer in the world who sells a desktop or tablet every second, making a tablet(HP TouchPad) that works with their cellphones(Pre3 & Veer) with Touch-to-Share technology, as well as they are planning on putting webOS on every single desktop and laptop they sell in 2012. God forbid that they put Touch-to-Share on their desktops and laptops, the seamlessness of mobile and home computing would be beautiful. Not to mention all the other major manufacturers turning their eyes on this market and making other tablets. So you’re talking about a market much different than the iPod market. You’re talking about Apple being able to beat out ALL the worlds manufacturers at the same time, which is just unrealistic and is so nieve. I respect Apples ecosystem, and their products, they do a great job innovating and creating new spins on products that have made them the second largest company in the world in Market Cap. But to assume that all the worlds electronics manufacturers together will be grouped up in 20% is just laughable. I cant believe you people could even comprehend a world where 20% tablet market-share is supposed to drive the rest of the worlds computer companies. Being that everyone has been saying that tablets are PC replacements, this sounds like in 2016 if there is 260 million tablets being sold there will be less than 100 million PCs sold. If thats the case so many electronics manufacturers are going to go out of business.

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    1. You are forgetting history. Several major OEMs went after Apple in the mp3 player market–Samsung, Sony,Toshiba, Rio, Olympus, HP, Dell Creative, Sandisk, etc. with the full weight of MS behind them. Also, it seemed like every major retailer thought they could run an iTunesMusicStore clone–Microsoft, Sony, Real, Walmart, Coke, Napster, Spiral Frog, Virgin, Nokia, etc.

      Yet Apple maintains that >70% market-share.

      I believe that HP has some good options with PalmOS but when was the last time you bought any mobile consumer device from HP? Apple has been developing those chops for almost a decade now.
      Also, Apple already has critical mass in economies of scale. They can already count on selling 40 million iPads this year and get the absolute best pricing. Everyone else has to fight against everyone else for the scraps in components, marketing, shelf-space, mindshare and even themselves if they offer more than one OS on various slates (like Dell) and then hope they can sell a couple million units in a best case scenario.

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    2. LIst of miserable iPod/iTunes wannabes, mostly partnered with MS. If you think the industry didn’t roll out the big guns against Apple’s iPod/iTunes/iTunesMusicStore trinity, you are very mistaken.

      AOL MusicNow
      • Archos
      • BearShare
      • Cingular
      • Cowon
      • Creative Labs
      • Denon
      • Digitrex
      • D-Link
      • Ericsson
      • iMesh
      • Insignia
      • iriver
      • Kyocera
      • MSN Music
      • MTV URGE
      • Motorola
      • Musicmatch Jukebox
      • Nokia
      • Palm
      • PassAlong Networks
      • Pioneer
      • Philips
      • Rhapsody
      • Roku
      • RCA
      • Ruckus Network
      • Samsung
      • SanDisk
      • Sonos
      • Sony
      • Spiralfrog
      • Toshiba
      • Wal-Mart Music Downloads
      • Yahoo! Music Unlimited

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      1. The difference this time is “Android”

        MS did not have an os for the device .. Only the software for the ecosystem. Their PMC product never really got mass and they made the mistake of keeping the Zune OS only to themselves… The players which came out were crappy … Thats because the software on the device itself was crappy … As bad as Windows is, Samsung’s software skills are far worse …

        Android is another beast altogether…The software may not be all polished up, but its pretty awesome and can do things which apple cannot / will not do … Android is in lots of ways better than Windows and paired with low cost devices or state of the art hardware, the combination is way more competitive than “Plays for Sure” ever was …

        All in all if OEM’s can beat Apples price point, then it will be game on. Till then Apples bank has to deal with all that cash.

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  8. The parallels between the MP3 and tablet markets are striking, and a much more apt analysis than to the iPhone. As for the rest of the equation, perhaps HP may still have a fighting chance (by pushing WebOS across the spectrum of platforms – tablet, phone, PC), but I have real doubts for Android unless Google really steps up the Google docs environment to convert users to cloud enabled tablet computing and leaves the desktop totally behind.

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  9. Keep this in mind. Apple does not play in the market share arena. They play in the profit share arena. They control 36% of all PC profits despite selling millions less. They control over 50% of all smartphone profits despite selling millions less than all their competitors combined. The media tends to focus on market share, like this articles does, but that is not Apples goal. It just so happens to be Apple’s situation due to lack of ingenuity from the other vendors. This is why Apple has priced the iPhone and iPad at those price points, so that others, despite selling millions more, will lose.

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  10. everybody thought the iPhone would run away with the market in 2009, then the Droid came out late that year & look what happened to Apples marketshare in 2010 (stalled out at 24%).

    after realizing that the iPhone has no chance anymore of winning the smartphone market I believe many people are now comparing the iPad with the iPod instead because they are diehard faithful that want Apple to “win”. this means alot more to the faithful followers after losing both the desktop market & smartphone market, they need high sustained numbers to “soothe” their inner well-being.

    while I do believe Apple will keep strong USA presence, what these articles tend to always ignore is the “rest of the world”. Apple has a very singular purpose powerful name in the USA, but the brand is not near as powerful anywhere else. there will be hoards of cheap Android tablets flooding asian markets that will easily overtake iPad marketshare within the next 3-4yrs.

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    1. Kid of funnyto seethe two comments back to back.

      Market share and profit share.
      Has Android helped profit share? Are there any non-slim
      Margin products for Android phones or tablets currently or likely in the future?
      Nokia shows what happens when you confuse handset sales and Market share with profit share.

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