Apple's share of the tablet market dipped to its lowest point yet during the second quarter. Let's put that in context.
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New data from IDC shows that Apple's share of the tablet market is sinking quickly. So what? Apple launched the modern tablet market in 2010 with the original iPad. That year it had more than 90% of the tablet market. Apple never had anywhere to go but down.
During the second quarter of 2013, Apple shipped 14.6 million iPads. That's down from 19.2 million during the first quarter of the year. With the drop in shipments, Apple saw its share of the tablet market dip to 32.4%. A year ago, when there were fewer legitimate competitors, Apple's iPad owned 60% of the market. It's lost almost half its share of the market.
In years past, Apple introduced a new full-size iPad during the second quarter. This year, it didn't. Plenty of people are waiting to see what Apple does next with its full-size tablet, so they're holding off on the annual upgrade. That's not a difficult concept to understand.
Even at only 14.6 million units, Apple managed to beat its closest competitor, Samsung, by a wide margin. Samsung shipped 8.1 million tablets during the second quarter. The next-closest competitor, Asus, shipped just 2 million tablets, or about one-seventh as many as Apple. That means Apple is still the top tablet maker in volume. The same is true for profits. Apple's margins are better than those of Samsung and Asus.
The quarterly sales numbers will always fluctuate based on annual upgrade cycles, as well as traditional shopping seasons. Apple might have written off its second (and maybe even third) quarter stats by changing its iPad upgrade cycle, but Apple is primed to have a huge year-end between September and December.
Apple is expected to debut a brand-new full-size iPad and a refreshed iPad Mini. The full-size iPad will feature a new design, mirroring that of the iPad Mini, which has a slimmer frame. The iPad Mini might have a Retina screen. The new tablets should arrive in late September or early October. They will surely be huge successes.
One thing that's important to remember, however, is that Apple doesn't target market share. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said repeatedly that Apple doesn't care about making the smartphone or tablet that sells the most units. Apple cares about making the best device it can make. Apple cares about providing its customers with the best experience it can. Apple cares about quality over quantity (well, to a certain degree, since Apple is a public company and has to keep shareholders' interests in mind.)
Given the growing presence of low-cost Android tablets in the market, such as Google's Nexus 7, Apple will likely continue to lose share in the tablet market until the still-growing market stabilizes in a year or two. As the tablet market matures, it will be more important to see if Apple can continue to lead by bringing new features and experiences rather than what its share of the market is.
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