Influx of low-cost Android-based devices will tip the tablet market in Google's favor this year, says IDC.
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Smaller, cheaper Android tablets will nibble away at the iPad's market share this year. IDC on Tuesday revised its forecasts for the tablet market through 2013, which it now believes will climb to 190.9 million total units shipped. By the end of the year, IDC predicts that more Android tablets will be shipped than iPads for the first time since the iPad's 2010 debut.
IDC altered its numbers due to consumer purchasing behavior during the last quarter of 2012, during which it saw a surge in purchases of smaller tablets.
"One in every two tablets shipped [during the fourth quarter of 2012] was below 8 inches in screen size. And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond," said Jitesh Ubrani, Research Analyst for IDC's Tablet Tracker. "Vendors are moving quickly to compete in this space as consumers realize that these small devices are often more ideal than larger tablets for their daily consumption habits."
Android tablets may have a leg up on the Apple iPad and iPad Mini thanks to their lower price point. Devices such as the Asus Nexus 7, with its $199 price tag, are appealing when compared to more expensive Apple hardware. The iPad Mini, for example, starts at $329 and jumps up quickly if you add features such as LTE 4G or more storage. Consider, also, the recently announced Galaxy Note 8 from Samsung. This appealing 8-inch tablet brings many of the Note II smartphone's features up to tablet size at a price that still beats the iPad.
The Nexus 7, Galaxy Note 8 and other Android tablets will account for 48.8% of the 190.9 million tablets shipped during 2013 (about 93.6 million tablets). That's up from IDC's previous forecasts for the year, which were much lower at 41.5%.
At the same time, IDC said, Apple's share of the tablet market will slip from the 51% of shipments it held at the end of 2012 to about 46% of shipments (about 87.9 million) by the end of 2013.
That means Android-based tablets will outmatch the iPad for the first time, with 48.8% of the tablet market this year, compared to 46%. That will certainly sting Apple, as it defined the current tablet market with the iPad.
Android and Apple aren't the only players in the game, however. Believe it or not, Microsoft is going to make some noise in the tablet market this year, said IDC, thanks to Windows 8 (think Surface Pro) and Windows RT. Both of Microsoft's tablet platforms will steal share that would otherwise have gone to Apple or Google, but not everything is necessarily going well with Microsoft's tablet plans.
"Microsoft's decision to push two different tablet operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, has yielded poor results in the market so far," said Tom Mainelli, tablets research director. "Consumers aren't buying Windows RT's value proposition, and long term we think Microsoft and its partners would be better served by focusing their attention on improving Windows 8. Such a focus could drive better share growth in the tablet category down the road."
According to IDC, Windows 8 accounted for 1% of all tablets at the end of 2012. That figure will slowly grow to about 7.4% by 2017. IDC doesn't think Windows RT will ever break 3% of the tablet market.
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