Apple keeps vise-like grip on tablet market — for now

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Whether there’s a smaller iPad on schedule for a September reveal or not, for now Apple is still dominating the tablet business. For the second quarter of 2012, Apple shipped 17 million of the 25 million total tablets sold worldwide, according to a report published Tuesday by IDC. But things could start looking a little different later this year or early in 2013.

As you can tell from IDC’s chart, the competition last quarter wasn’t even close:

According to IDC, even as competitors have released new tablets in the last year, Apple has only put more distance between itself and those tablet makers, moving from a 62 percent share of the tablet market in the second quarter of 2011, to a 68 percent share in the second quarter of this year.

Samsung, thanks to its Galaxy Tab, and Amazon with its Kindle Fire, also saw their shares of the market rise, Samsung from 7 percent to almost 10 percent, and Amazon from nothing to five percent. That almost every top tablet maker saw a little bit of growth (save poor Acer), means that the overall base of people buying tablets is expanding.

And the end of this year should see an even bigger expansion, thanks to the just-released Nexus 7 from Google, new products from Amazon, and Microsoft’s Surface, which is expected to arrive in late October.

But an influx of new alternatives to the iPad isn’t without potential complications, IDC points out in its report.¬†“If anything, there’s a real risk that people will have too many options from which to choose this holiday season,” writes IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell. “Consumers baffled by the differences between Amazon and Google versions of Android, or Windows 8 and Windows RT, may well default to market leader Apple. Or they may simply choose to remain on the sideline for another cycle.”

Perhaps. But iPad alternatives¬†in smaller and cheaper packages¬†with brand names like Amazon and Microsoft are still a potential threat to the iPad — and that does offer an explanation for why Apple could be readying a smaller iPad, as has been reported multiple times.

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