Android Tablet Shipments To Overtake iPad by 2015

By Steve Smith

As Apple readies the worldwide release of its new iPad tomorrow, March 16, IDC projects that the company that invented this market will maintain its dominant position for another three years. IDC revised upwards its projections for unit shipments of tablets to 106.1 million in 2012, up from 87.7 million. Stronger than expected Q4 shipment, aided by the arrival to market of the Amazon Kindle Fire, ended the year on a strong note. Forecasting out to 2016, IDC sees tablet shipment growing rapidly, reaching 198.2 million units in 2016.

Apple shipped 15.4 million iPads in Q4, but Amazon started making a dent in the market with 4.7 million Kindle Fires. Amazon had 16.8% of the worldwide market by year’s end, and Apple’s share had diminished to 54.7%. IDC research director of Mobile Connected Devices tom Mainelli says that Amazon’s entry into the market raised overall awareness of the category and grew the market for most of the major vendors. Barnes & Noble saw its unit number rise, but its overall share drop to 3.5%.

Overall, Android-based tablets are ascendant. Mainelli says that lower price points from a range of manufacturers worldwide will help drive penetration of the Google operating system in coming years. By 2015, Apple is likely to lose its majority position. This is much the same strategy Google deployed with its original Android operating system for the smartphone, where it achieved market dominance in just a few years.

But just as we have seen in the smartphone arena, Google achieves superior numbers on mobile devices but still struggles to make its content ecosystem as robust and lucrative for publishers as Apple’s. Most research shows that app developers on iOS see revenue that is multiple higher than they see on android. In the tablet format Android has been especially weak until Amazon’s entry. Few developers have been writing apps specifically for the larger screen format. While the Kindle Fire has helped drive more dedicated Android tablet development, publishers face a more fragmented market here. There are multiple screen sizes and even different versions of the OS from Google, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.