Android tablets won’t close gap on iPad until 2015

27 Jul 2011

It will be 2015 before Android tablet sales will be neck and neck with the Apple iPad with an estimated 87m and 90m unit sales respectively, a new forecast claims.

Apple has dominated this space since the launch of the iPad in 2010, but this is set to change with the introduction of low-cost Android tablets, the wider launch of Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) and the possibility of other major brands, such as Amazon, launching tablets on the OS.

“We have seen a huge explosion in the tablet market in recent years, driven primarily by the iPad, and we estimate that the market will go from strength to strength, growing from under 20m tablets sold in 2010, to over 230m in 2015,” comments David McQueen, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

“We expect Apple to retain its leading market share until 2015 but only just. From 2013, as cheaper and more advanced Android tablets enter the market, we forecast that sales will pick up considerably, eventually surpassing iPad sales in 2016.”

Apple now has 75pc of the market but this will drop to just 39pc in 2015. Meanwhile, Android will see a huge increase in its market share, as the devices and the ecosystem around the platform improve. By 2015, it will have 38pc market share, putting it on a par with the iPad.

Factors that will decide the success and failure of tablet computers

“Three factors have proven to be decisive in the success and failure of tablets: brand, access to distribution channels, and product quality, including the application environment offered. At the moment, the iPad leads in all three areas but Apple’s edge is likely to wane as the quality of the competing products and application environments improves,” adds McQueen.

It is anticipated that, once Windows 8.0 is launched, there will be a variety of tablets available in the market based on Intel and ARM architecture. These are most likely to include a Nokia device, as well as a number from the traditional PC vendors.

RIM’s PlayBook is expected to show only modest growth early on following its launch as some mobile operators have shown to be reticent to carry the device as they are struggling with the business model owing to it initially being Wi-Fi only. However, volumes will be buoyed by the inclusion of Android apps on the device and the introduction of cellular connectivity (HSPA+ and LTE versions are expected before end-2011).

“Most mobile operators are expected to focus on supporting iOS and Android tablets in line with demand, and their current indifferent support for Windows, BlackBerry OS (QnX), WebOS and MeeGo tablets will prove decisive in shaping consumers’ purchasing decisions in the short term.

“However, it is those devices that can also dominate the consumer-electronics sector and online retail channels, as well as nurture their current partnerships with the mobile operators that will win out,” says McQueen.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years