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Apple iPad Launch May Not Be The Only One This Year, Says IHS iSuppli

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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The third generation iPad has set the pace for tablet standards but Apple still has a little more up its sleeve in 2012

Apple’s newest iPad, described as once again “leapfrogging the competition” and “resetting the bar” on performance is expected to help it take back tablet market share lost last year to Android devices, IHS iSuppli forecasted. The research firm added that Apple’s tablet introductions for 2012 also are not over yet, with a rumoured seven-inch version expected to arrive in time for the Christmas shopping period.

“Reports from component suppliers point to a smaller version of the iPad, which reportedly would use a 7.85-inch, XGA display,” according to the IHS report. “Apple has yet to confirm that such a product will be part of its product strategy, but suppliers anticipate its release in the fourth quarter.”

Apple’s big slice of the pie

Total global tablet shipments are expected to reach 124 million units in 2012 – leaping 90 percent from 2011’s 65 million units.

Apple held a 57 percent share during the fourth quarter of 2011, which is expected to rise to 61 percent for the full year 2012. While that is a one-point dip from its overall 2011 share, it still represents the majority – and Apple’s dominance – which it is expected to maintain at least through 2014, with a 52 percent share of global shipments.

Helping Apple this year will be both the new iPad – which has gained 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology, a faster processor and a more gorgeous screen – and the discounted iPad 2, now starting at $399 (£253).

“Apple constantly pushes the performance envelope, which is a key part of its on-going success,” Rhoda Alexander, IHS senior manager of tablet and monitor research, wrote. “While not always first to market with a particular feature, Apple engineers are careful to select new attributes that are sure to improve the overall end-user experience. This design philosophy and capability to execute sets Apple apart from the pack.”

Amazon has had terrific success with its $199 (£126) Kindle Fire, banking on a model that takes a hit on the hardware side, trusting on the software and content sales to come. The Fire’s pricing, unsustainable to traditional hardware manufacturers such as Samsung and Motorola, led to “price slashing” in the fourth quarter, and “took a toll on many players in the Android space, according to IHS. Shipments of Android tablets during the second half of 2011 came at the cost of a 41 percent decline in the average price of Android tablets.

Apple, of course, never flinches on the price front, and no competitor has been able to compete head-to-head with Apple at the premium price point. Microsoft, however, hopes to try, appealing to long-time Windows users with forthcoming tablets running Windows 8.

“With the arrival of Windows 8 on ARM microprocessors postponed to 2013, and most of the Android competitors now regrouping,” Alexander wrote, “IHS has lowered the media tablet forecast for Apple competitors in 2012. This means Apple will continue to capture the majority of the market well into 2014.”