Some 11 million media tablets are expected to ship by year end, according to ABI Research -- a figure almost triple its original estimate, made only six months ago.
The firm is revising its earlier forecast of four million shipments "based both on the broader availability of the iPad and on the delayed introduction of competing products," said Jeff Orr, ABI Research principal analyst for mobile devices, 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. To capitalize on the usual fourth-quarter sales boom, other tablets need to reach retailers' shelves by early September."
The other tablet vendors are yet to be determined, Orr said in an e-mail. "There are several device OEMs planning to launch tablets, but no significant brand challenges were launched during the first half of the year,'' he said. If they are released by September, he said, "there could be anywhere from three to five vendors that gain some traction by year-end."
The media tablet segment still does not constitute a "mass market," Orr noted, and probably would not before 2013. Given that Apple's distribution reach is still "quite limited," any market changes would be influenced by broader availability as well as activity from iPad competitors, he said.
Several factors have contributed to the delay in the launch of several competing tablets, according to ABI Research's newly released study, "Netbooks, MIDs, Media Tablets, and Mobile CE Market Data," including the global recession, questions over which operating system to deploy, and how to compete with the success of the iPad user experience.
The attention tablets are receiving will also impact other parts of the consumer electronics market, said Orr. "In particular, the surge in interest in media tablets is impacting the MID (mobile internet device) category,'' he said. "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'."
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