Tablets: Numbers and Observations

Ben Bajarin / May 3rd, 2012

Both IDC and Display Search released updated numbers for the tablet segment. There are some interesting key take aways from both sets of numbers.

IDC confirms Apple’s dominant position with regards to iPad share and points to slumping Android shipments for tablets which is no surprise. The Display Search data is a bit more comprehensive which includes forecasts as well as OS share in the press release.

There is one thing that sticks out to me and it is related to Windows 8. In the IDC press release they make it clear that Windows 8’s impact is too early to tell. Whereas Display Search takes a stab at forecasting share for Windows 8 and RT but gives the advantage to Windows RT over Windows 8. This is interesting because it implies that from Display Search’s standpoint they do not have much confidence in Windows 8 on X86 but have some confidence in Windows RT to gain some traction in the tablet market.

If you look at the updated numbers from all the major forecasting firms, it is becoming clear that most, if not all, acknowledge that the tablet market could be larger than the notebook and desktop market. Regardless of your belief on that point the bottom line is that tablets and smartphones are the only real growth segments of the computing industry. IDC still is committed to calling all tablet “media tablets” which I think is wrong. There is no doubt at this point in time that tablets are computing platforms not just media consumption platforms.

In Display Search’s numbers, I think they are being overly generous to Android given the trouble it has said so far in tablets. I personally tend to believe that Windows 8 or Windows RT has more of a chance in the tablet market to succeed.

I still remain convinced that Apple will remain the undisputed leader in tablets due to the iPad becoming the standard in terms of tablet computers. In this release, my friend Richard Shim rightly points out that as the tablet market matures there will be opportunities for segmentation within the sector as vendors carve out differentiation.

As with all forecasts we have to take them with a grain of salt to a degree. Things can change quick and a couple of factors, like subsidization, could drive tablet shipments much faster than is currently being forecasted.

The bottom line is, vendors who are not establishing a tablet strategy may very well be left out of one of the hottest segments of computing we have seen in some time.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • “…most, if not all, acknowledge that the tablet market could be larger than the notebook and desktop market.”

    Finally.

    “…IDC still is committed to calling all tablet “media tablets” which I think is wrong. There is no doubt at this point in time that tablets are computing platforms not just media consumption platforms.”

    Calling them “media tablets” is moronic It’s as if IDC was purposely trying to appear quaint and out of touch.

    “…Display Search takes a stab at forecasting share for Windows 8 and RT but gives the advantage to Windows RT over Windows 8. This is interesting because it implies that from Display Search’s standpoint they do not have much confidence in Windows 8 on X86 but have some confidence in Windows RT to gain some traction in the tablet market.”

    Let me give myself a mulligan before I even start analyzing the upcoming Microsoft tablets. A lot of how this plays out is going to depend on the hardware. If the hardware is thick or heavy or has lousy battery life or poor responsiveness…then its game over. But assuming the hardware is comparable, here is what I think.

    First, I think Windows 8 is going to be a disaster. It’s not going to be the best of both worlds. It’s going to be two worlds – touch and mouse – colliding. But I concede that I may be all wrong. If the touch portion of the tablet works great, then maybe people will simply ignore the parts of Windows 8 that don’t work. And, as I’ve also said before, about 1% of users will simply adore it. It will completely meet their needs. The remaining 99% will have to wonder why we had to learn the “desktop operating systems do not work on a tablet” lesson all over again.

    Second, I, like IDC, think that the Windows RT will do better than Windows 8…except for one little thing…that one little thing being the one hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine missing Apps.

    Windows RT is going to run into the Windows Phone 7 problem only even more so. Apps on a phone are wonderful. Apps on a tablet are essential. A phone, after all, is still a phone. And in a pinch you can use it for internet access when you’re away from home. And if it has a couple of Apps then, hey, what the heck, we’re good to go. A tablet really only has one purpose, one mission, one function, one reason for being…Apps.

    If Microsoft can’t get Apps, then their tablet is going App-solutely nowhere. (Sorry, I know that was painful. But it had to be said.)

    “In Display Search’s numbers, I think they are being overly generous to Android given the trouble it has said so far in tablets.”

    Here’s something that few seems to be really considering: 98% of new iPad owners are satisfied with the device. Ninety Eight Percent. Now let’s slow down and think about the implications of that for a bit:

    – It’s not like people are dissatisfied with the iPad and looking for an alternative.

    – What exactly are iPad competitors aiming for, a 99% approval rating? And is even 1% better enough to ply loyal Apple patrons away from their iPads?

    The iPad has the first mover advantage. It has mind share. It has traction. It has a fully mature and vibrant App marketplace. And it’s good. It’s really, really good.

    In order to displace an entrenched product, you have to present your potential customers with something that is both different and much, much better than the incumbent. Something that makes them sit up, take notice and say: “Oh wow” or “Of course!”

    Is there any existing or projected Android product that is capable of doing that?

    Do either of the proposed Windows tablets make that happen? Windows 8 tablets have the advantage of running two operating systems. Or is that really a disadvantage?

    Windows RT has the advantage of running Office! Does that really make up for the other 199,999 missing Apps?

    “The bottom line is, vendors who are not establishing a tablet strategy may very well be left out of one of the hottest segments of computing we have seen in some time.”

    What if it’s ALREADY too late to establish a tablet strategy? What if RIM is out, Android is out and Windows tablets are too, too late? What if the war is already over but we just don’t know it yet?

    Apple is dominating both the market share and the profit share of the hottest, fastest growing most important category of tech. And Apple is already the largest company in the free world. Here’s a scary thought: What if Apple is just getting started?

    • Grwisher

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      • Thank you so much! Your comment means a lot to me.

        Like you, I find the comments here to be excellent. I attribute it to the high quality of the articles to which we are responding. I think this is an excellent site and I’m very happy that I tripped upon it.

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    • Audiorich

      Those who predict that the Windows tablet will be successful seem to base it on two things: that people who have tried Windows Phone 7 often prefer the colorful tiles to iOS, and that Microsoft is willing to be patient as they were in the 1990s, and wait for their market to build up. My thoughts are that the colorful tiles aren’t nearly enough to make up for the paucity of apps, and that this isn’t a desktop market in the 1990s…this is mobile in the 2010s and while Microsoft is waiting, Apple will zoom even further ahead of them. Or to put it another way, Microsoft had a good idea but conceived it too late.

  • Recision

    I wonder if there is some sort of market for a super tablet…?
    Twice the cost of an iPad, but also with “enhanced” capabilities. (whatever that might be)
    So far everyone seems to be aiming for a price point below Apple.

  • Rudolf Charel

    The problem in my mind is the difference between shipped and sold.

    All iPad competitors believed that they would sell a shipload of their tablets in the holiday season so they shipped millions. Unfortunately they remained unsold so in the next quarter their supply lines were full and they consequently did ship a sharply reduced number.

    As for the Windows tablets, hope springs eternal. They can forecast what they like, but the proof in the pudding is what they eventually sell. Anyone’s guess is as good as the next one as there are no sales figures to base their guesses on.

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