TMCNet:  Is Apple's tablet dominance coming to end?

[January 09, 2013]

Is Apple's tablet dominance coming to end?

(Flare (Pakistan) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Samsung – Apple’s strongest rival in the smartphone market – is trying to grab a larger share by targeting a broad range of customers with models in various sizes, colors and technological specifications Google is coming after Apple hard. The company now sells two tablets, the Nexus 7 (7-inch screen) and the fast, loaded Nexus 10 (10-inch screen), manufactured under Google’s supervision by Asus and Samsung. The 10-inch model has a gorgeous screen. Technically, it packs in even more dots per inch than the iPad’s Retina display, although you can’t really see a difference The iPad has shaped and dominated the global market for tablet computers since the original model came out in 2010. But the market landscape may be starting to change, as consumers now have a lot more options with tablets from Samsung Electronics, Amazon.com Inc. and many other brands.


In the third quarter through September, Apple’s share of the tablet market dropped sharply to 50.4 percent from 65.4 percent in the previous quarter, according to research firm IDC.

Major vendors of tablets powered by Google Inc. Android operating system gained market shares in the same quarter. Samsung’s share increased to 18.4 percent – the largest-ever market share for a vendor other than Apple – from 9.4 percent in the second quarter. Amazon, the vendor of Kindle Fire tablets, followed with a 9 percent share, while Taiwan’s Asustek Computer Inc. known for its Asus brand for PCs, came fourth with a 8.6 percent share.

Apple’s market share declined in part because some consumers were holding off their iPad purchases during the third quarter a new, smaller tablet – the iPad Mini, which went on sale recently. For the fourth quarter through December, IDC expects Apple to have a “very good quarter” thanks to the new iPad Mini, which has a 7.9-inch screen, as well as the latest version of the standard 9.7-inch iPad.

Was the decline in the third quarter just a temporary slowdown for Apple Or is the business environment getting tougher for the iPad Apple surely is facing more competition as the global tablet market has grown much larger and much more diverse.

Samsung – Apple’s strongest rival in the smartphone market – is trying to grab a larger share by targeting a broad range of customers with models in various sizes, colors and technological specifications. Amazon, meanwhile, is attracting customers with its affordable tablets – its latest Kindle Fire HD starts at $199 – as the company’s strategy is to make up for low margins on its hardware with sales of e-books and other products on its e-commerce platform.

Google is coming after Apple hard. The company now sells two tablets, the Nexus 7 (7-inch screen) and the fast, loaded Nexus 10 (10-inch screen), manufactured under Google’s supervision by Asus and Samsung.

The 10-inch model has a gorgeous screen. Technically, it packs in even more dots per inch than the iPad’s Retina display, although you can’t really see a difference.

Google’s tablets also have more hardware features than the iPads, like a video-output jack and stereo speakers and they cost less. The Nexus 10 costs $400, which is $100 less than the equivalent iPad (16 gigabytes of storage).

Samsung is also flinging Android tablets into the ring. Its Galaxy Note tablets come with a stylus and a handful of stylus-oriented apps that let you draw or take notes, for example.

But Android tablets’ plastic backs feel cheaper than the iPad’s metal. Their cameras aren’t as good as the iPad’s. Their batteries generally don’t last as long.

Above all, the Android-tablet app catalog is still very disappointing. The apps that exist are often hastily refigured versions of Android phone apps, rather than apps thoughtfully designed for the bigger screen. For example, the Android apps for Twitter, Yelp, Pandora, Vimeo, eBay, Spotify, Rdio, Dropbox, LinkedIn, and TripAdvisor are scaled-up Android phone apps basically, they’re just lists. On the iPad, the screen is filled with useful visual information about whatever is selected.

No matter how much progress Android tablets make in hardware and price, those 275,000 tablet-designed apps can’t help making the iPad more attractive. (Google won’t say how many apps there are for Android tablets, and there’s no tablet area of the Android app store.) And that goes double for Microsoft’s new Surface tablet. It’s slick hardware but it requires all new apps and there aren’t many yet.

The iPad Mini runs all the same apps as the big iPad, unmodified. It shows the same content on the screen, just smaller.

The big iPad’s screen is much sharper. I’m betting the Retina resolution won’t come to the Mini until next year’s model. But otherwise, the Mini makes so much sense. You can slip it into a purse or overcoat pocket. You can hold it for far longer without finger fatigue (it’s very light and thin). And you can pay $330 instead of $500.

These days, the competition is fierce and the quality is high. There aren’t any certified turkeys among the name-brand tablets.

But if you do unwrap the Kindle PaperWhite, the Nook HD or the iPad Mini or wrap one up for someone else you’ll get that extra glow of satisfaction. You’ll know that, at least in this moment of marketing time, you or your loved one wound up with the best that money can buy, in the most desired gift category in the land.

Next year, the hot gift might be a camera, phone, laptop, music player or game console. But this year, the marketplace has spoken: at least in technology, the world is flat.

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