It’s debatable whether and when tablets will become as mainstream as mobile phones or PCs, but in their own right, their sales trajectory appears to be booming at the moment.
A report out from IDC notes that tablet shipments in EMEA have exceeded earlier estimates, while Juniper Research notes that globally shipments of tablets will grow five-fold in the next five years.
Both also confirm what we’ve already heard many times before: Apple’s iPad is the undisputed leader for now.
IDC says that tablet shipments in Europe, the Middle East and Africa were close to 4.4 million units in Q2 2011 — 700,000 more than the researchers had originally forecast. That translates to a growth of nearly 400 percent over the same quarter last year, and 82 percent more than Q1 2011. Overall, the region is on track for shipments of 22 million for the full year. Juniper, which has today released worldwide figures, predicts that tablet shipments will reach 253 million by 2016 — the figure for 2011 it says will be 55.2 million units.
The main driver of this? Mostly “soaring demand” for the iPad 2. Apple’s share of the market has definitely gone down over last year — in Q2 2010, before others had entered the market, it had a 94.3 percent market share; in Q2 2011 that is now down to 66.6 percent. But IDC notes that Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is likely to retain its market dominance into 2012 with the introduction of the iPad 3. It is still the largest single manufacturer in the table (see below), and in that sense the tablet market is theirs to lose.
On the Android front, it seems like retailers have not yet come to grips with what consumers are really demanding.
Android tablets. Although the many varieties of Android tablets have driven the market to some extent, IDC notes that Android tablets as a whole actually failed to meet its original forecasts for shipments, reaching fewer than 1.4 million units, despite some models (such as the seven-inch Galaxy Tab from Samsung), getting discounted down to €99 in some cases.
IDC also noted that Acer sold less well than expected — it shipped a lot of its Iconia tablets, but these were not bought up as quickly as expected. Meanwhile, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer sold better than originally thought — meaning that more could have been shipped. Despite all this, IDC also thinks that Android tablets will continue to gain market share, and will end 2012 with 34 percent of the tablet market in EMEA.
Two more things on tablet competitors: Given the huge price discounts for the TouchPad from HP (NYSE: HPQ), it will be interesting to see how and if that impacts tablet sales in Q3 figures later in the year. And: even if we have seen some mis-steps around tablets from brands more traditionally associated with PCs, Juniper believes that the PC makers’ entry into the market, going head-to-head with those from the smartphone camp, is inevitable and will only grow in the years ahead.
At the moment, the drive for tablets looks like it is primarily coming from consumers rather than enterprises, IDC notes. This is because of the dominance of Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) in desktop software: that has held back a lot of businesses, which are still trying to figure out how tablets would integrate into such that existing infrastructure.
That speaks of an opportunity for Microsoft and its device partners, who will have a chance to take a bite out of the tablet market with Microsoft’s newly-announced Windows 8 OS. And perhaps a missed opportunity from RIM: it shipped only 93,000 PlayBooks in the quarter, and has largely been targeting consumers, not its traditional enterprise base, with the product.
Ultimately, though, this will remain a relatively smaller part of the market: Juniper says that enterprises will account for one-fifth of all tablet sales by 2016.