updated 02:10 am EDT, Wed June 8, 2011
'Whitebox' tablet market emerges from leftovers
Two completely separate surveys on different aspects of the tablet market paint a revealing picture, showing primarily that the market is in the early stages of growth, and that the playing field is changing. While Apple and its iPad dominate the scene at the moment, its biggest competition -- at least in some regions -- may not be from brand-name Android tablets but instead from local or non-branded "whitebox" tablet vendors, particularly in emerging regions like China.
Interest in tablets was found to be incredibly high, with a survey commissioned by Samsung showing that 90 percent of American consumers either already own or are considering buying a tablet device. The finding, based on a survey of 1,000 adults conducted by Kelton Research, demonstrates a significant rise in product awareness over the last 14 months, since Apple's original iPad kickstarted the nascent tablet market and turned it into a consumer item.
Apple itself reported yesterday that it had sold over 25 million of the devices, and said that it could have sold even more had its supplies not been constrained compared to demand. Samsung's survey did not reveal any preferences among respondents as to which brand or brands they were considering, but the company's own Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet will be arriving in the U.S. shortly.
A different survey done by DisplaySearch on tablet marketshare showed that the fastest-growing segment of the tablet market belong to neither Apple nor the various Android device makers, but rather to "whitebox" tablet makers that are particularly popular in emerging markets and other countries where the entry-level price point of name-brand tablets -- about $500 or more in equivalent currencies -- is too high versus wages.
Although Apple dominates the overall market at just under 54 percent, the "whitebox" or "generic" tablet market -- often making cheaper tablets out of rejected or substandard parts rejected by the name makers -- has grown 235 percent quarter-over-quarter in Q1 2011, and has already captured nearly 20 percent of the market, not far behind the 26.8 percent share of all name-brand non-Apple tablet makers.
The "whitebox" market grew from 567,000 units in Q4 2010 to 1.9 million units in Q1 2011, with China being the largest market for local or "no-name" tablets, making up 44 percent of those sales by itself. The Asia Pacific region, Latin America and more isolated or rural parts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa are also prime targets for "whitebox" tablet makers.
The fast growth of the "generic" market is not to be underestimated, particularly when mainstream tablets actually dipped in sales slightly in the same post-holiday quarter, from 10.2 million units in Q4 2010 to 9.7 million in Q1 2011. Tablets have however increased thirteen-fold overall from the year-ago quarter, when Apple had been virtually the only competitor. Combined tablet sales in Q1 2010 were 668,000 units, versus a combined total of 9.7 million units in Q1 2011.
The rise of "no-name" tablets could actually help Android come to dominate the field as measured by OS use, since many generic tablets will use vanilla or lightly-customized versions of Google's free tablet operating system -- though it could leave users to their own devices when it comes to future update paths.
The Samsung survey also shed some light on how consumers plan to primarily use tablet computers, with reading books or news being the largest choice at 76 percent, followed by watching TV or movies at 64 percent. Sixty-one percent said their most common use would be listening to music, while 56 said that they would primarily use the tablet to update their social networking activities.
The use of the tablet as a home gaming device was also a popular choice, with 53 percent saying they prefer to game on their tablet over a PC or video game console. Other activities, like video chatting with loved ones (41 percent), taking pictures or video (44 percent), or using the tablet for work-related purposes (34 percent) were also among the most popular purposes for considering or using a tablet.