Will Android tablets overtake the iPad by 2015?

Android tablet makers, being a disparate bunch of OEMs, aren't in a position to plan and organize a proper campaign against Apple.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

According to the prognosticators over at IDC, worldwide shipments of Android tablets will overtake the iPad by 2015. All the other players will see their sales shipments crushed, and Windows 8-powered ARM tablets don't even figure into IDC's results at all.

Here's the money quote:

As predicted, Android made some strong gains in 4Q11, thanks in large part to the Amazon Kindle Fire's success (the Fire runs a custom version of Google's Android OS). Android grew its market share from 32.3% in 3Q11 to 44.6% in 4Q11. As a result, iOS slipped from 61.6% market share to 54.7%; Blackberry slipped from 1.1% to 0.7%. WebOS, which owned 5% of the worldwide market in 3Q11, dropped to zero in 4Q11. Looking ahead, IDC expects Android to continue to grow its share of the market at the expense of iOS.

Here's a chart of the predictions:

IDC is crediting Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire tablet as being the catalyst for this growth. It raised awareness of the category of devices in consumers' minds despite shipping almost exclusively in the US during the fourth quarter of 2011.

While IDC predicts that Android will take the lead in terms of shipments, revenue is a different matter, with IDC expecting iOS to stay as the revenue market share leader through the end of its 2016 forecast period and beyond.

I have to say that I'm skeptical that Android will do this well against iOS.

First off, I don't see Android tablets doing that well right now. When a market leader like Samsung has to admit that "we're not doing very well in the tablet market" then you know that things aren't going too well. There's only so long that companies are going to be willing to invest time, effort, and money, into this market before giving up and admitting defeat. Think what happened with media players when all the big names tried to outsmart Apple's iPod marketing and sales juggernaut.

Margins are already razor-thin and Amazon's Kindle Fire with its $199 price tag has only made this worse. Amazon can afford to be brutal when it comes to Kindle Fire pricing isn't interested in selling a tablet, instead it's interested in selling content for consumption on that tablet. I just can't see anyone other than Apple and Amazon being able to create a revenue-generating ecosystem around their devices; not even Microsoft. This means having to make all their profits off of the sale of the device and hope that the customer comes back in a year or two to buy more hardware again.

I also feel that IDC is somehow relying on Apple to sit still for next few years and allow Android to catch up. Apple's clearly not going to do this, and the $100 price cut on the iPad 2 shows just how committed the Cupertino giant is to getting people onto the iOS bandwagon.

The old iPad 2, which is still superior to every Android tablet currently n the market, is Apple's new iOS gateway drug. Android tablet makers, being a disparate bunch of OEMs, aren't in a position to plan and organize a proper campaign against Apple, and the only player that could help, Google, doesn't seem all that interested in giving the OEMs a helping hand.

My prediction is that by 2015 Android tablets will have closed some of the gap on the iPad, but that Apple will continue to dominate when it comes to shipments. Android will see growth, but at the expense of revenues, and that the other OS players will continue to be crushed under the weight of the opposition.

Image credit: IDC.


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