Rise of the tablet device: 11 million coming this year

As Apple ships 3.27 million iPads in launch quarter, rivals are scrambling to catch up
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

As Apple ships 3.27 million iPads in launch quarter, rivals are scrambling to catch up

Expect a lot of media tablets to ship this year - some 11 million - according to analyst house ABI Research, which has significantly revised its forecast, almost tripling its prediction of six months ago.

The success of the Apple iPad has contributed to the upwardly revised forecast. The iPad maker this week announced its financial results for its third quarter, revealing it sold a total of 3.27 million iPads in the tablet's launch quarter. Apple's CEO Steve Jobs said the iPad is off to a "terrific start".

ABI defines a media tablet as a device that has a main focus on entertainment and does not replace a laptop, netbook or mobile phone but is rather an additional premium or luxury gadget.

Back in February, a week after Apple officially unveiled the iPad, the analyst predicted four million media tablets would ship in 2010.

While the iPad will account for a "significant portion" of the 11 million, the analyst said Apple's rivals still have a chance to take a slice of tablet pie - if they get their act together in time for the festive season.

"Our forecast of 11 million media tablet shipments in 2010 is based both on the broader availability of the iPad and on the delayed introduction of competing products," noted ABI Research principal analyst Jeff Orr in a statement.

"Assuming that competing tablets from other vendors do arrive in the second half of the year as expected, we believe that the iPad will account for a significant portion - but not all - of the projected 11 million units."

He added: "To capitalise on the usual fourth-quarter sales boom, other tablets need to reach retailers' shelves by early September."

apple ipad has contributed to rise in analyst estimations for tablet shipments

The Apple iPad will account for a "significant portion" of the 11 million tablets expected to ship this year
(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad will be available in nine more countries from tomorrow, when the device is due to land in Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore.

However despite the coming of millions of iPads, media tablets remain a long way off becoming a mass market phenomenon, according to ABI.

The analyst reckons such devices are likely to remain relatively niche until 2013, but tablets are already having an impact on another category of device: MIDs, or mobile internet devices - gadgets that are generally bigger than smartphones but smaller than tablets.

"Most of the volume that we've projected for the MID category since 2007 is now being taken over by other device form factors: media tablets, but also smartphones, which are assuming more and more of the functionality that was envisioned for these 'non-voice handsets'," Orr said, drawing on information in the analyst's Netbooks, MIDs, Media Tablets, and Mobile CE Market Data report.

Apple also reported third-quarter sales figures for its iPhone smartphone, revealing it shipped 8.4 million iPhones in the quarter - a 61 per cent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Mac sales were also up significantly: 3.47 million were shipped during the quarter - a 33 per cent unit increase over the year-ago quarter and a new quarterly record, according to Apple.

The company posted record revenue of $15.7bn and net quarterly profit of $3.25bn, or $3.51 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $9.73bn and net quarterly profit of $1.83bn, or $2.01 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter.

Apple also reported that international sales accounted for 52 per cent of the quarter's revenue.

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