Every manufacturer and OS developer out there seems to want a share of the next huge thing in consumer technology – and everyone seems to think that the next revolution is the tablet. Of course, the Apple iPad was the first to put the tablets in the hands of consumers. Accordingly, Apple pretty much defined the industry standard and currently “owns” the market.
Will every other tablet – Android or other – just become a “me too” product in a world defined by Apple?
Israel Pasos, CEO of Yatapp, the maker of the publishing app Pressleaf for iPad and Android tablets, doesn’t think so.
“The Android tablets will eat up iPad’s market share eventually, because the Android OS is more open, and people have more choices in price and products,” Pasos says.
On the other hand, Pasos points out that developing apps for the Android devices is harder and more time consuming for developers.
“The Android market is very fragmented, and from a developer’s standpoint it’s easier to develop for the iPad,” Pasos says, explaining that developing an app for the Motorola Xoom tablet is completely different than for the Samsung Galaxy, even though they both run on the Android OS.
Google has addressed some of those issues with the Android 3.0 – Honeycomb – which is developed specifically for the tablet format, and as it improves, the Android tablets will gain market share, Pasos says.
“For developers, the Apple framework is very well done. It’s very structured. Apple enabled small developers to reach a huge market with the App Store – the ‘Angry Birds’ game is a good example,” Pasos says, noting that he sees a trend where developers first make an iPad app, then an Android version and wait to see what catches on.
Some analysts predict that by 2012, the Android will catch up to the iPad, each owning about 40 percent of the total market. Others predict that it will take until 2015 before the non-iPads close the gap. But most analysts agree that the Android devices will catch up and dig into Apple’s market share, just as they did with the smartphones. The first iPhone was launched in 2007. The first Android phone was launched in the fall of 2008. By August, 2010, Android had eclipsed the iPhone for the global market share.
Part of the reason why Android is able to catch up, analysts say, is that there are over 100 different smartphones from different manufacturers in several price brackets that come with the Android OS. Apple has one smartphone. Consumers like choices. The same appears to be true with the tablets. Just this year, there will be half a dozen different makes and models to choose from. Apple has one tablet.
Bloomberg News reports that Android tablets increased its share of the tablet in the fourth quarter of 2010 and was responsible for 22 percent of the global tablet shipment in that quarter, with Apple iPad accounting for 75 percent in the fourth quarter. Apple shipped 7.3 million devices in the fourth quarter, an increase of 74 percent from the previous quarter. Android devices shipped 2.1 million tablets in the fourth quarter, up from 100,000 in the third quarter. The research firm ISuppli estimates that 57 million tablets will be sold in 2011, and 171 million in 2014.
The non-iPad tablets have some obvious advantages to the iPad, including USB ports, slots for memory cards and the ability to run Flash (used by many web sites but not supported by the iPad, not even the upgraded iPad2 that just launched), to mention a few.
New challengers include the Motorola Xoom, launched on February 24 and featuring the new Android 3.0 Honeycomb technology, and the Samsung Galaxy, which came on the market in November as the first of the Android tablets. Last week, three more Android tablets quietly hit the market: the Acer Iconia Tab A500 at $450, the LG G Slate at $530/$430, and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer at $399. Prices are dropping, and several are 4G capable. HP will launch its Touchpad this summer, and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a 10” tablet that’s slimmer and lighter than the iPad 2, and was just made available in Portugal on April 26. It is scheduled to launch in the US on June 8. Sony has announced two tablets to launch in the second half of 2011. There will be competition for iPad.
While the Samsung Galaxy shipped more than two million devices globally between the launch in November 2010 and January, Deutsche Bank estimated that the Motorola Xoom only sold about 100,000 tablets since the launch in February and so far has come in short of manufacturer’s expectation. Maybe it’s the price – most of the Android tablets are more expensive than the iPad – but that is rapidly changing with some Android tablets even costing less than the iPad for the wi-fi versions. Maybe it’s the fact that Apple’s App Store is so nicely laid out and easy to shop, while the Android marketplace still is more anarchistic in appearance. Maybe it’s that there are currently so many more apps for the iPad compared to Android, and especially the Honeycomb versions. Or maybe it’s just that the start of the Android avalanche is slow. Time will show. But the snowball is already running.