Analysts predict that strong sales of Apple and Android tablets will continue to boost the market this year, with some help from Microsoft’s Windows 8
The tablet market could top 125 million units shipped in 2012, led by Apple’s iPad and tablets based on Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating systems.
So goes the prognostication from equity analysts at Jefferies & Co., which actually shaved off 25 million units from its earlier estimate for this year because the market consolidated faster than it expected.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said Apple sold 40.5 million of the 70 million tablets that shipped in 2011, with Samsung shipping 10 million Galaxy Tabs and Amazon selling 4 million Kindle Fire Android tablets for the year.
Most of the machines were initially price too high compared to the iPad, which started at $500 (£317) for the Wi-Fi model. Motorola Mobility sold its Xoom Android “Honeycomb” tablet for $699 on contract a year ago this month.
That price, some bugs in Honeycomb, and the lack of a strong application ecosystem for Android slates led to Motorola only selling 1 million tablets for 2011. For perspective, Apple sold 15.4 million iPads last quarter alone.
The Kindle Fire came to market on 15 November with the opposite approach: It was Wi-Fi only and cost $199. These factors made the tablet quite attractive to cost-conscious consumers. Over four quarters, the Fire could conceivably sell 16 to 24 million units.
Good news then, from Misek, who said Android tablet apps should drive shipments in 2012.
Still, Misek had originally modeled the 2012 tablet market to top 150 million units shipped. He’s curbed his model to account for market consolidation. Specifically, tablet vendors, including Research in Motion, HP and other Android OEMs, failed to gain any traction versus Apple, Samsung and Amazon.
Motorola, HTC, RIM and HP all slashed prices, often quite aggressively, to sell off inventory and grab some market share.
If there is a silver lining here it is that the tablet market is a lot younger than the steadily maturing smartphone sector. Misek believes Android will have “a more seamless offering across handsets and tablets”, likely owing to the merging of the smartphone and Honeycomb branches into the Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” operating system.
Of course, the iPad juggernaut should continue in 2012 with the iPad 3, expected to launch in the first quarter. When the iPad 3 becomes available, it is widely expected Apple will follow the pattern it set for its iPhones by discounting the iPad and iPad 2. With Apple setting the bar and market expectations, Misek expects tablet prices to fall to an average of $350.
The market may be dominated by iPad with an assist from Android in the near future, but Microsoft will make a “viable push with its Windows 8-based tablets“, Misek wrote in a 6 February note to clients. “The first ones are likely to launch in late 2012, but the units will likely not significantly ramp until 2013.”