Analysis: How other tablet makers can dent Apple's market share

By Sooraj Shah
05 Jan 2012 View Comments
Steve Jobs with iPad

Apple's rivals have so far failed to seriously threaten the iPad's overwhelming lead in the tablet market because they have been unable to articulate the business benefits of their products to enterprise IT decision makers. That's the view of Ovum analyst Nick Dillon, who points out that tablets remain a relatively rare sight in most workplaces.

To illustrate his point, Dillon pointed to RIM's lacklustre performance in the tablet market, arguing that if the company had made more of its PlayBook tablet's business pedigree, sales of the device would be much healthier.

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Dillon said he is puzzled as to why RIM has not been able to compete with Apple in the tablet market, particularly as its BlackBerry handsets are a mainstay in the enterprise.

According to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker, Apple had by far the largest share of the tablet market in Q3 2011.

It shipped 11.1 million units over the period, representing a 61.5 per cent worldwide market share.

Tom Mainelli, manager of IDC's Mobile Connected Devices programme, said the success of Amazon's e-readers shows that there is an appetite for media tablets beyond Apple's iPad, but he also believes that the iPad is about to gain more traction in the enterprise and education markets.

The IDC research showed that in the same period, Samsung, which makes the Android-based Galaxy Tablet, had the next highest market share after the iPad with 5.6 per cent. This was followed by HP's TouchPad at five per cent. However, the TouchPad was discontinued just 49 days after its launch following disappointing sales and unfavourable reviews.

HP said at the time that axing the TouchPad was part of a strategy shift following the resignation of CEO Leo Apotheker and his replacement by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.

Ovum's Dillon believes Apple has such a large market share because it essentially created a new market when it released the original iPad back in April 2010. Although slate-style PCs had been around since 2002, demand for such devices only took off when Apple refined the user experience with its seminal product.  

He said Apple's rivals have struggled to gain market share because their products are widely perceived to be pale imitations of the trailblazing iPad.

Dillon argued that RIM missed an opportunity because although it initially marketed its tablet at enterprises it then changed its marketing strategy.

The Canadian manufacturer went on to advertise the PlayBook as an "all-in-one tablet", confusing IT decision makers who need devices with a clear purpose, he said.

Although consumerisation has worked for Apple, Dillon said that this will not be a route for all manufacturers as CIOs tend to be more interested in enterprise-oriented products.

He believes that it is not too late for Apple's rivals to make a lasting impression in the tablet market, but they need to be cleverer. He said that as the software and technology matures it will become easier for Apple's competitors to compete.

Apple's nearest rival, Samsung, could be ready to release an enterprise tablet, which Dillon believes would compete well with the iPad.

"Samsung has said it will make its offerings more enterprise friendly. For example, when it released the Samsung Galaxy S2 [a smartphone], it also released some enterprise tools and completed partnerships with device management security companies.

"It has done this to pad out Android which was lacking an enterprise perspective. The S2 is therefore enterprise ready and Samsung could do the same with its next tablet," he said.

Dillon said that for Apple's competitors, innovation is paramount. He also believes that there will be a steady increase in enterprises looking to bring in tablets for their employees but much of this will depend on price.

"Companies are looking to cut costs and therefore vendors should be trying to lower the price of their tablets. Another issue is that the tablet has got to replace an existing device [a laptop or smartphone] in order to be affordable; or it has to be able to complete tasks that existing devices cannot do and this is where they need to be innovative," he said.

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