The media seems convinced that Android tablets will not be able to keep up with the IPad. One article even refers to them as dead on arrival. After seeing the success of the Android OS in mobile, it is clear that it is only a matter of time before Android will dominate Apple in the tablet war.
Lets review how it all went down with the phones. Google’s first Android phone, the G1, debuted in late 2008. Anybody looking back in the summer of 2009 would probably say that it was not looking good for Android’s chances in putting a dent into the IPhone market share. The software was still young, needed work, and it did not have the backing of a major carrier. Flash forward to November 2009 when the Droid debuted with Android 2.0 Eclair on Verizon Wireless. About 1 year later the reports were showing that the Android OS had topped Apple’s IOS in the US and in many other parts of the world. How did they do it? They did it with multiple manufacturers blitzing the market with a tremendous amount of support from Verizon Wireless with the Droid brand.
Now it is about to happen again with tablets. The Samsung Galaxy Tab debuted last year with minimal impact as compared to the Droid phone launch, but they still managed to put a decent dent in Apple’s share of the tablet market. For the 4th quarter of 2010, Android tablets (mostly Samsung) grabbed 22% of the market share according to Strategy Analytics. Apple accounted for 75%. This was down 20% from the previous quarter where Apple led tablet sales with a 95% share. The Galaxy Tab represented an ice breaker for Android. It was never expected to be a major force as Honeycomb was still in the works, but it still took a decent market share.
Motorola released the XOOM with Honeycomb 3 weeks ago and the reports are that sales are slow. Is anyone surprised with this news? Apple’s number one mover is the Wi-Fi-only version and Motorola chose to only release the 3G version. On March 27th the Wi-Fi-only XOOM will be available at major retailers like Best Buy, Radio Shack, Costco, Staples, Amazon, Walmart, and Sam’s Club. According to a study done in January of this year by Forrester, 40% of consumers would rather buy a tablet in a consumer electronics store like Best Buy as opposed to 11% saying they would prefer to buy a tablet from a mobile service provider like Verizon. Up until now the Galaxy Tab and the XOOM were only available with mobile service providers. With no Wi-Fi-only option for either tablet, the chance for growth was minimal.
March 27th will define a pivitol point in the tablet war, but probably not the same impact as the Droid had with mobile. Most people feel the XOOM, along with Google Honeycomb, was rushed because of the IPAD 2. The Android tablet software will continue to evolve much like the phone OS did. By the summer there will be Android tablets available from HTC, Samsung, Toshiba, Acer, Dell, and others. Sounds like the same type of manufacturer blitz that happened with Android phones.
It took a total of 2 years for the Android OS to dominate the mobile market. I expect the Android rise in tablet market share to be quicker because the base is already there. Over 60 Million Android phones were sold in 2010 worldwide. If those current owners want to buy a tablet, wouldn’t the natural fit be an Android tablet? Most mainstream consumers who already own a particular OS for their mobile handset will more then likely choose the same OS for their tablet. It is just easier. The apps will be synced between devices and the OS will have the same feel. Why do you think the IPad was so successful? The millions of people who already owned an IPhone started buying the IPad because they were already drinking the Steve Jobs Kool-Aid.
The naysayers will say that with the debut of the IPhone on Verizon, all of these Android users will reverse course and buy the IPhone and therefore want to buy the IPad. Verizon had the biggest impact on Android in the US. Recently Verizon stopped all 1 year upgrades. Most users are on a 2 year contract and will not be eligible for a new phone for 20 months (unless they want to pay full retail). This puts the majority of Android users eligible for an upgrade sometime in 2012. Meanwhile the Android OS will continue to evolve and those Android users who want a tablet will most likely go with Android. If those users are not convinced now that Android is the better OS, they will be by the time their contract is up.
The only thing that can derail Android would be if overall tablet sales are not as strong as everyone is predicting. That would be very interesting because someone still needs to convince me that I need a tablet, but I will leave that for another article. The other caveat could be the Blackberry Playbook. Blackberry has a very strong following and what makes the Playbook interesting is the rumor that it will be compatible with Android apps. The downside for Blackberry is there will only be one manufacturer. I am still predicting by this time next year, if Android is not the number 1 OS in tablets, they will be very close.