iPad Market Share Stabilizes as Post-PC Apple Products Surge

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IDC reports that the iPad’s share of the tablet market fell from 93 percent to 73 percent on shipments of 10.1 million devices last quarter. For all of 2010, 18 million “media tablets” were shipped, with Apple accounting for 83 percent of that total. While a drop of 20 percentage points in market share might seem dramatic, it’s not; up until the third quater of last year, Apple had the market almost exclusively to itself, which is why market share numbers of nearly 100 percent reported at the time were largely meaningless.

Now, with genuine competitors entering the market, we’ll find out just how popular the iPad really is, and it doesn’t look like Apple has much to worry about. According to the IDC, the Samsung Galaxy Tab took 17 percent of the market in the last quarter, but there continues to be some debate about what that means. Going back to a conference call in January, Samsung executives stumbled on actual sell-through of the Tab to consumers, versus Tabs shipped to resellers. At the recent iPad event, Steve Jobs repeated the apparent misquote from Samsung suggesting consumer sales were quite “quite small.” The quote was actually, “quite smooth,” and yet Samsung has since been silent on both Tab sales and Jobs’ misquote.

Perhaps that’s why IDC expects Apple to maintain between 70 and 80 percent of the 50 million tablet shipments expected for 2011. However, that anticipated share may even be a little low, as IDC asserts it won’t be until the second half of the year that iPad competitors “hit the market in earnest,” leaving Apple with plenty of time to hook tablet buyers early on.  As current competitors like the Tab and Xoom continue to struggle with mixed reviews, uncompetitive pricing, and now iPad 2, it’s an open question as to whether more competition along those lines will matter. If the iPad maintains market share at around 75 percent, it will mirror the iPod’s success in the media player market. But that’s only part of the story of Apple’s ongoing success.

During the last quarter, 92.1 million PCs were sold. Taking totals for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, Apple sold approximately 33 million post-PC devices during the same period. If it seems incongruous to compare Apple post-PC sales with PC sales, rather than other post-PC devices from companies like Samsung or Motorola, that’s exactly the point: No other single company compares to Apple when it comes to being ready for the transition from traditional computers to a range of handheld devices, “where the software and the hardware and the applications need to intertwine in an even more seamless way than they do on a PC,” as Jobs said.

PC sales are expected to be around 350 million in 2011. Apple will sell over 100 million post-PC devices. Apple isn’t just winning tablets; it’s winning computing in general.

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