updated 11:15 am EDT, Thu September 22, 2011
Gartner sees no Android, W8 threat to iPad soon
Gartner refreshed its estimates for tablet share in a view that further cemented Apple's lead. It now saw the iPad taking more share in 2011 than predicted just five months ago, up five points to 73.4 percent, or 46.7 million iPads. The analyst group lowered its expectations for Android at the same time and saw it getting just 17.3 percent, or 11 million tablets.
Research VP Carolina Milanesi interpreted the lower Android prediction, which was nearly flat with the 14.3 percent from the year before, as a summation of a slew of multiple failures to compete. Many of the tablets were too expensive and had too few apps, but Android 3's interface was also "weak," she said. Most of the support for the future was coming through a unification of the phone and tablet Android platforms through Ice Cream Sandwich as well as the hope that having the sheer volume of hardware partners and smartphone apps would translate into success later on.
Many Android partners had presumed that their success in smartphones would automatically translate into the same for tablets. Some companies even attempted exact repeats of their carrier deals, such as Motorola's presumption that a Verizon exclusive for the Xoom would boost sales. The inherently high prices of these 3G and 4G versions compared to an equivalent 3G iPad, along with customers' reluctance to be locked into a contract for a device that isn't essential, has led to talk of much lower sales than shipments and having to lower goals for the rest of the year.
No other platform would have more than five percent this year, Gartner said. Smallest of all would be Intel's MeeGo at just 476,000 tablets, while it predicted that the short-lived run of the HP TouchPad would get it just over two million sales. The researchers were optimistic about the BlackBerry PlayBook, as they predicted three million at a time when RIM has shipped just one million so far and is widely expected to top out at two million or less.
Apple would also get a wider lead than predicted in the longer term. While its absolute share by 2015 would be down slightly lower than once thought, to 45.6 percent, the gap with next-best Android would be wider as Google peaked at 35.7 percent versus the 38.6 percent Gartner had seen earlier. With lowered predictions for the PlayBook, most of Android's loss would come from Windows 8.
Microsoft's ambition to become the leading tablet maker wouldn't become real, according to the estimate. With 34.4 million tablets, it would still hit just 10.6 percent and wouldn't fare much better than the PlayBook's 26.1 million and eight percent share.
Apple's near- and far-term success came from providing a consistent experience that others weren't expected to get, according to Milanesi. She added that Apple was the only one to think of establishing the tablet market as it's known today and, unlike the Android, PlayBook, and Windows alternatives, had taken long-term steps to keep itself out in front.
"Apple had the foresight to create this market and in doing that planned for it as far as component supplies such as memory and screen," she explained. "This allowed Apple to bring the iPad out at a very competitive price and no compromise in experience among the different models that offer storage and connectivity options."