Android Tablets Face iPad, Playbook Squeeze

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Android tablet sales fell in the second quarter after coming under pressure from the iPad and Playbook

The tablet market is officially booming, with a surge in sales during the second quarter led by Apple’s iPad and other devices.

According to IDC, worldwide shipments of tablets totalled 13.6 million units, rising 89 percent in Q2. The popular iPad 2 accounted for 9.3 million units shipped, comprising 68 percent of the global market.

Android Slide

Android tablets, including those based on the Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” build and the tablet-tailored “Honeycomb” OS, totaled 26.8 percent, down from 34 percent from Q1.

Who or what is responsible for that slide?

Research in Motion’s Blackberry PlayBook gobbled the chunk of share from Android. IDC said the PlayBook, which reportedly sold over 500,000 units soon after launch in April, nabbed 5 percent of the tablet market. “Apple’s strength and RIM’s entrance meant bad news for Android-based media tablets,” IDC said.

Also, IDC expects HP will sell a million TouchPads by year’s end, thanks to its bargain-basement discount to $100 (£63) for the end-of-life slate.

HP decided it didn’t want to compete with the iPad, Android and other players who have head starts. The vendor’s fire sale will help its webOS claim 4.7 percent market share in Q3 before the platform share vanishes completely in 2012.

Things will get worse before they get better for Android tablets. IDC said the platform will continue to haemorrhage market share, slipping to 23 percent in Q3 before seeing an upturn to 26 percent in Q4. IDC suggested the proliferation of “price-competitive Android products” in the market will contribute to Android’s share gains.

Today, most Android tablets cost between $400 (£253) and $700 (£442), and none of have been able to suitably challenge the $500 (£316) iPad on price, functionality and form factor.

Amazon.com is expected to launch its Kindle Tablet, which could cost $300 (£189) or less. Such products would certainly lure some holiday shoppers Apple’s iPad might otherwise claim.

The Kindle Tablet and other low-cost tablet models could change the dynamic over time.

Unknown Amazon

“Apple’s iOS share will continue to lead by more than 40 percentage points over Google’s Android for the remainder of the year, but we expect Apple’s share to fall closer to 50 percent by the end of the forecast period as manufacturers bring new tablets to market,” said IDC analyst Jennifer Song.

However, IDC isn’t ready to classify the Kindle Tablet as, well, a tablet.

Song said that because the slate, which reportedly utilises a 7-inch screen, has a full-colour screen and runs a custom version of Android with Amazon’s content services, IDC believes the device will be more like Barnes & Noble’s Color Nook e-reader than Apple’s iPad 2. Song said IDC is calling the Kindle Tablet an e-reader, sight unseen.

Despite this creative accounting, IDC ratcheted up its 2011 tablet shipment forecast from 53.5 million units to 62.5 million units, largely on the strength of the iPad.

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