After dipping to 55.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a final estimate, the Apple operating system’s share of worldwide tablet sales—a segment including both media tablets and PC-type tablets—is set to recover to 61 percent for the full year of 2012, about the same portion it had in 2011.
Apple’s dominating media tablet market share in the fourth quarter of 2011 had been diminished by a surge in sales of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet, which is based on Google’s Android operating system. This had caused Android’s share of the tablet operating system market to climb to 41.1 percent, up from 31.1 percent during the third quarter of 2011. However, as Apple reasserts its leadership, Android’s share will decline to 38.4 percent for the full year of 2012.
“The key to Apple’s media-tablet success has been its offering of a complete hardware-plus-content ecosystem,” said Rhoda Alexander, director for monitors and tablets research at IHS. “The combination of a good-looking device, well-designed applications, video, books and music has provided consumers with an easy-to-use product and an appealing use case. Such an ecosystem took Apple years to put together, starting with the iPod plus iTunes Music Store more than nine years ago, and it’s proving to be a challenge for the company’s competitors to replicate it.”
Further bolstering Apple’s commanding position in the market, supply-side sources indicate that the company will deploy a smaller, 7.8-inch display version of the iPad later this year, although Apple has yet to confirm this. A smaller screen does not necessarily mean a substantially lower price; rather, IHS expects Apple will place continuing emphasis on the quality of the overall tablet experience and the benefits of selecting the company’s products.
Sales of tablets this year—including both media tablets and PC-type tablets—will soar to 126.6 million units, up a remarkable 85 percent from 68.4 million units in 2011. The impressive performance of tablets this year builds on an even mightier 253 percent explosion last year from sales of 19.4 million units in 2010. Tablets comprise one of the strongest categories in the consumer electronics market today, with heady growth in the next few years matching the wild exuberance of the cellphone or mobile handset industry in its initial years of market-busting expansion.
Tablet sales will rise another 63 percent next year, on their way to 360.4 million units by 2016, as shown in the figure below.
Enter the PC Tablet
While media tablets such as the iPad dominate now and throughout the forecast, new ultrabook offerings and the release of Windows 8 later this year will help drive stronger sales in 2013 and beyond of PC-type tablets, IHS predicts. PC tablets will appeal to users wanting the flexibility of a tablet with the versatility of a traditional computer. These devices are able to manage multiple windows and applications including traditional full desktop applications, but can also convert to a slate form with touch capability. The smaller, lighter form of some of the new ultrabook offerings, touch improvements in Windows 8, and more aggressive pricing will help drive growth in this category.
Media tablets are often designated as “consumption-type” products with which users can browse the web, send email, view video, play games or interact with applications.
Within the media tablet space, however, the market is fragmenting into two segments—value products largely serving as “consumption-type” portable media players; and higher-performance units incorporating more complex applications and stronger processors. Much of the growth in the future will come from the value segment, but the performance sector will provide the stronger challenge to traditional PCs in both business and consumer markets.
Overall, the growth last year of media tablets dwarfed that of tablet PCs, and media tablet sales will continue to outperform those of tablet PCs in 2012. By next year, tablet PC growth will accelerate to nearly 160 percent, compared to a still-robust 60 percent increase for media tablets.
The PC tablet growth is a form transition within the larger notebook market and does not reflect any cannibalization of the media tablet opportunity. This is because PC tablets will still lag well behind their media tablet counterparts next year, numbering a little over 8 million units compared to more than 197 million units for media tablets.