I was in a meeting when the Apple quarterly results came out this afternoon. As you've read, the company had revenue of $35 billion and profit of $8.8 billion. Still, this was below most analysts' expectations. Shares fell 5% in after-hours trading accordingly.
Quarterly device sales were as follows:
All the numbers came in under expectations except for the iPad; 17 million is a new quarterly record (vs 11.8 million last quarter). To date Apple has sold 83.8 million iPads on a global basis.
Sales of iPads will probably cross the 100 million threshold by the next earnings announcement. If not, then certainly by the end of the year.
CEO Tim Cook said that iPhone sales were likely depressed by talk of the forthcoming iPhone and consumers waiting for the new model.
The early success of Google's Nexus 7 tablet sales, on the heels of Kindle Fire's success in Q4 last year, establishes that the 7-inch tablet category is here to stay. Before Kindle Fire there were no successful Android tablets of any size. Kindle Fire's combination of rock-bottom pricing ($199) and Amazon content helped drive several million in unit sales. Now Google's new device is off to a blazing start.
The company just released its first TV commercial for the tablet (a very Apple-like spot).
As I previously discussed, the new Google tablet (starting at $199) is vastly superior to Kindle Fire. It now puts enormous pressure on Amazon to pull a rabbit out of the hat with its "2.0" release. Yet Amazon wants to release "five or six" new mobile devices (mostly tablets) of various sizes.
Apple is rumored to be releasing a smaller, lower cost tablet later this year. This is a defensive move for to prevent the iPad from being under-cut by lower-priced, almost-as-good products. A 7-inch iPad (or larger iPod Touch), combined with the Nexus 7, will likely dampen Amazon mobile device sales unless quality is dramatically improved.
Regardless, the rise of the 7-inch tablet category now creates additional options for consumers and additional complexity for advertisers and to some degree publishers. I suppose it's an argument for "responsive web design."
With Kindle Fire 2, Nexus 7 and the coming Apple 7-inch tablet (and the accompanying low price of these devices) we should see 7-inch tablets sell millions of units. Many people will now have smartphones, small tablets for travel and "on the go," and 10-inch tablets for home. PCs will largely be used for "work" or become secondary devices for most consumers.
Indeed, the device market is moving much faster than publishers and marketers. Publisher content and ads generally don't look particularly good on the 7-inch form factor. Tiny mobile banners are barely noticeable and landing pages look awkward filling only part of the screen. In addition, right now there are only a few apps optimized for 7-inch tablets. Smartphone apps look OK but often appear stretched or out-of-proportion.
All this will have to change -- and relatively quickly.
The PC market, where the attention of most publishers and marketers is still largely concentrated, is not going to grow. And by Q1 of 2013 there will be millions more tablets in people's hands. In fact, I believe that there will be 100 million tablets in the US market much more quickly than anyone is predicting: by the end of 2014.
With sales driven by competitive prices many of these will be 7-inchers, which don't play well with ads and content designed for smaller smartphones and which can't render apps, content or ads created for 10-inch tablets.
I've been using the new Nexus 7 Google tablet since I obtained one at the Google developer conference late last week. I also own a Kindle Fire, which I use regularly for reading and watching movies. After just a short time it's clear that the Nexus 7 beats the Kindle Fire, the best-selling Android tablet to date, by a mile.
Outside of the Amazon content universe the Kindle Fire offers a generally sloppy and lackluster tablet experience. Whether you agree depends on your expectations and whether or not you own an iPad. Some people argue that Kindle Fire, as a basic Kindle upgrade is great for the price. But as an owner of two iPads, my view is that it offers a poor overall experience beyond the borders and boundaries of Amazon's media and shopping content.
Beyond this, I'm not a fan of Android tablets in general. I owned the Samsung Galaxy 10.1, which was a real clunker next to the iPad. That's partly because there were and still are so few tablet apps for Android. Indeed, none of the 10-inch competitors to the iPad have sold well. By contrast Kindle Fire sold because there’s no Apple entry in the 7-inch category. But its rock-bottom $199 price and the Amazon brand were the big drivers of sales, which have now slowed.
Yet the Kindle Fire tablet is an Android device in a technical sense only; it marginalizes Google. Accordingly Google felt compelled to act and the company has now taken direct aim at Kindle Fire with its new 7-inch tablet, built by Taiwan computer maker ASUS. It’s priced identically at $199 (although there's a $249 version with more memory). Google has also followed Amazon’s lead and made content from its "Google Play" store a major part of the Nexus 7 experience.
After a week of very heavy use, I'm very pleased with the performance of the Google device. If I think of it as a tablet it still falls short of the iPad by a considerable margin. However if I think of it as a larger smartphone it's great.
It fits easily in your hand and the larger (than a smartphone) screen makes almost everything better about the experience. There are still relatively few tablet apps, and the 7-inch size is awkward in certain respects. Steve Jobs referred to it as a “tweener." It doesn’t fit in your pocket like a smartphone but doesn’t offer the full-screen experience of the iPad. However smartphone-optimized apps and mobile websites don't look as awkward on a 7-inch screen as they do on a 10-inch Android screen.
Unless you're a loyal Amazon Prime customer and/or a very heavy Kindle user, in choosing between the Fire and the Nexus 7, there's no question about which device to buy: the Nexus 7.
It offers such a superior experience for virtually everything you'd do on a tablet -- and you can download the Kindle reader Android app. Indeed, the full range of Android apps are available from Google Play. On the Amazon tablet you get a subset of Android apps (no Google Maps for example).
Google should have a very successful product in the Nexus 7. The one major challenge is that right now there’s no retail distribution. Google is selling it directly through the Google Play store. And while there’s a huge installed base of Android users who are the primary market for this device, Google will need Best Buy and other retailers to offer the Nexus 7 before it can realize its full sales potential.
Last week mobile ad network inMobi released tablet survey findings, drawn from 9,600 respondents in seven international markets. US responses were just under 1,000 (904). The company asserts that "tablet use has risen quickly to 29.5 million U.S. users, 11% of the total U.S. population."
By comparison, in January of this year the Pew Internet Project released survey data that showed 19% of US adults owned tablets (mostly iPads). And comScore released data showing that roughly 24% of smartphone owners also have tablets. If we extrapolate these numbers, the Pew data suggest that there are roughly 42 million tablet owners in the US (as of January 2012). The comScore data argue the number is closer to 56 million.
The inMobi number is too small, while the comScore number is probably too large. Pew is likely closer to the actual number of tablet users in the US at this point. However, by the end of the year it could be closing in on 70 million.
The inMobi survey data are from a report entitled, The Role of Connected Devices in the Consumer Sales Journey. Below are some of the top-level findings:
General consumption habits
Shopping and e-commerce
According to the survey data, "tablets have become the preferred device at home and smartphones are preferred on the go." These devices play different roles in the "purchase consideration cycle." Tablets are used in a "lean back" mode in the evenings and on weekends, almost exclusively at home.
A recent tablet-centric e-commerce report from Monetate also observed that tablets are used primarily at home, as a PC substitute, and offered the following advice:
With increases in website traffic from devices such as the iPad and Kindle Fire, e-commerce businesses must treat customers using tablets as a unique audience segment. Tablet users expect a different experience that takes advantage of their devices’ features, such as touch/swipe functionality and screen rotation.
Accordingly it's not enough to simply assume the PC site will translate onto tablets. While non-flash PC sites often render relatively well on tablets they typically fail to take full advantage of the tablet opportunity.
E-commerce optimization firm Monetate has published its latest "E-commerce Quarterly" report. The report addresses a number of issues including social commerce. For purposes of this post, I'll focus on the mobile and tablet findings.
The data in the report are drawn from "analyzing a random sample from over 100 million online shopping sessions on 100-plus major e-commerce websites." Here are some of the major findings:
Website Traffic Sources
Q1 2012 Conversion Rates by Device Category
Compare similar data from Marin Software. Directionally they're almost identical to the Monetate findings.
What both the Marin and Monetate conversion findings lack, however, is data about offline conversions. If those were tracked and factored in I suspect we'd see mobile conversion figures outstrip the PC and potentially tablets.
Monetate's focus is strictly on e-commerce conversions. But most people don't buy conventional products on their smartphone, though they may do things like banking transactions or buy apps or rent movies.
The use cases for smartphone are different than PCs and tablets, which are mostly used at home and often as a substitute for the PC. According to Monetate's report:
It seems clear that smartphone users are either doing more comparison shopping or are dissatisfied with the user experience. In fact, a recent study from comScore Inc., Shop.org, and The Partnering Group revealed that 43% of smartphone owners have used their mobile device while in a store for a shopping purpose.
Monetate also argues, despite that at-home usage of tablets, that there's a different user expectation vs. the PC experience:
With increases in website traffic from devices such as the iPad and Kindle Fire, e-commerce businesses must treat customers using tablets as a unique audience segment. Tablet users expect a different experience that takes advantage of their devices’ features, such as touch/swipe functionality and screen rotation.
This argues in favor of tablet apps as well as a tablet-optimized HTML5 site. Finally, the firm predicts that at current growth rates, "website traffic from PC users will dip below 75% in less than one year" -- meaning that smartphones and tablets will represent 25% of site traffic.
The long-anticipated Google (Nexus) tablet is set to debut this week at Google's developer conference, Google I/O. Gizmodo Australia has specs and apparent pictures of the device. CNET has additional information.
Gizmodo reports an 8GB model will cost $199, matching Kindle Fire, and a 16GB model will carry a $249 price tag.
Google's tablet announcement comes on the heels of the Microsoft Surface announcement last week. However Surface pricing wasn't disclosed. Rumors argue that the lower-end RT model will not come in below $599, with the higher end Pro costing at least $700.
Unless Microsoft can get the RT price down to $499, as I and others have argued, Surface is unlikely to compete with or impact the iPad very much. Rather it will likely affect competing Windows laptop sales.
The new Google Nexus tablet will probably have an immediate -- and potentially dramatic -- impact on Kindle Fire sales. The Kindle Fire is a nice upgrade from regular Kindle reading devices but a lousy tablet overall for other than accessing Amazon's content universe. The Nexus tablet is likely to be a much better device for Internet browsing with a larger app library. Android non-tablet apps will look better on a 7-inch device than they did on the 10.1-inch Android Galaxy Tab.
Those not loyal to Amazon will be inclined to choose Google's tablet over the Kindle Fire -- all things being equal. However we may see Amazon respond with a price cut, which would be very interesting since the company already looses money on every Kindle Fire sold (but makes it back on content and other sales).
No doubt you've already read a great deal about Microsoft's new hybrid tablet-PC, Surface. It's being described as Microsoft's challenge to the iPad. Some have already called it a "game-changer." But that remains to be seen. It's also probably more of a challenge to Microsoft's own hardware partners than to the iPad.
Surface is a "new family of PCs." There will be at least three versions of the computing device, sporting slightly different specs and features. The screens apparently will all be 10.6 inches. All will come with a version of Windows 8. Perhaps the most compelling feature of the device is a "smart cover" that also operates as a keyboard.
Unfortunately at yesterday's press conference, which I was not present for, the company provided no release date or pricing information. The latter is critical. However Microsoft said that Surface devices would be competitively priced. In the case of Surface for Windows 8 Pro, the company said it would be priced “on par with Ultrabook-class PCs." Right now Ultrabooks run from about $700 to $1,000.
If Microsoft hopes to compete with the iPad, the lesser Windows RT version will have to start at $499.
There are some who believe that Microsoft took the bull by the horns in creating Surface, frustrated that its partners were not building compelling hardware while the iPad increasingly stole PC sales. It may well be that this will be the "kick in the pants" that Dell, HP, Acer and the rest need to start developing sexier machines.
However it's more likely that this device -- provided it works well and delivers against its promise -- will compete with those same hardware partners. It could well capture sales that might have gone to Ultrabooks. I would also imagine that enterprises will adopt these machines, it's not as clear that consumers will. That's where price comes in.
Another factor is Windows 8 and the public response to the new OS and UI. Microsoft is no longer in the position it has enjoyed for the last 15 years: when it released an OS update people bought it (until Vista). Now Android tablets and iPads do provide a viable alternative for those not doing heavy duty Office-oriented PC content creation.
Windows 8 has so far received mixed to negative reviews. While its Windows Phone OS has been critically praised, the devices aren't selling. This is partly because the UI and OS are unfamiliar to smartphone owners who've already become accustomed to the look/operation of iOS and Android. There are also too many competing options. Android has taken Microsoft's place in the smartphone world; it has become the alternative-to-Apple software supplier.
If consumers find Windows 8 jarring they may delay buying or avoid it. That's why price is so important. Surface is a sexy little device that must be priced very aggressively to get consumer attention. Otherwise, Surface could go the way of the Zune or the even shorter-lived Kin.
The Online Publishers Association followed up its 2011 tablet users survey with the release of an encore study (n=2,540 online adults). It contains a rich trove of data about US tablet usage among adults. According to the survey Android and the iPad have roughly equal shares of the US tablet market. This finding is contradicted by other data sources that show more than 90% of all US tablet traffic comes from the iPad.
The survey found that 31% of the Internet audience (vs. all US adults) owned a tablet today -- or 74.1 million users. Here are a selection of other findings:
Tablet owners have bought plenty of apps but they prefer ad-supported free apps if given the choice. Below is the list of paid-content categories, according to the survey:
The following were the top product-research categories on tablets:
Generally speaking attitudes and response to advertising are positive among tablet owners, with large numbers using the devices for research and buying. According to the survey, tablet owners spent an average of $359 buying products on tablets in the past year.
There are also plenty of indications in the survey that people prefer their tablets to other devices for the various activities they're engaged in.
In January of this year the Pew Internet Project released survey data that showed 19% of US adults owning tablets (iPads). That was up from just 10% only a month before in December. Now comScore has released data showing that roughly 24% of smartphone owners also have tablets.
If we extrapolate these numbers, the Pew data suggest that there are roughly 42 million tablet owners in the US (as of January 2012). The comScore data argue the number is now 55 million. These figures seem entirely reasonable. Apple CEO Tim Cook reported 55 million iPads sold to date in February.
People use the term "tablet" but the market remains largely about the iPad. The only other two models with any traction are the Kindle Fire and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. According to Gartner Apple's share of the tablet market will be 61.4% at the end of the year. IDC says Apple had a 68% share of the global tablet market in Q1 2012.
Both of these figures are incorrect and largely based on shipment estimates. Shipments don't equal sales to consumers.
Perhaps I should say instead that people may be buying other devices but it still doesn't matter. According to ad network Chitika, based on an analysis of millions of impressions in the US, the iPad "accounted for 94.64% of all tablet based traffic." By contrast Chitika said that the nearest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy tablet, "boasts a lack luster market share of 1.22%."
Late last week ad network InMobi released its own tablet data, showing gains by the Kindle Fire and total Android tablet ad-impression share of 28%. That argues the iPad controls a 72% share of the total tablet market.
We're likely to hear an update of tablet numbers this morning from Tim Cook during the Apple WWDC keynote.
Back to the comScore tablet data: the company says that just over half of tablet owners are watching video on the device, while nearly 10% are doing so every day.
A year ago in March AdMob found, based on a survey, that 77% of tablet owners were using their PCs less. In addition 28% of respondents said that the tablet had become their "primary computer." Clearly tablet ownership does cannibalize PC usage, while smartphone ownership may complement it. Roughly 80% to 90% of tablets are used mainly at home.
Once Microsoft puts Office on the iPad it will become a true PC substitute.
IDC and Gartner both released revised tablet projections in the past month. According to Gartner Apple will control 61.4% of the tablet market in 2012. IDC says Apple had a 68% share of the global tablet market in Q1 2012. Gartner is counting projected sales, while IDC is measuring shipments.
Shipments have been definitively shown to be an inaccurate metric in the past. Shipments do not equal sales.
Yet late last week ad network Chitika found, based on millions of impressions on its US-based network, "that the iPad accounted for 94.64% of all tablet based traffic." By contrast Chitika said that the nearest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy tablet, "boasts a lack luster market share of 1.22%."
The ad network found that for every 100 iPads there were just over 1 Samsung Galaxy Tabs, as measured by traffic generated. For every 100 iPads there were 0.8% Kindle Fires. As an aside Kindle Fire sales have dramatically slowed this past quarter.
While Chitika's network is not synonymous with the entire Internet it's going to be generally representative of traffic trends. In Q3 2011 comScore reported that "iPads delivered 97.2 percent of all tablet traffic in the US."
There's something really out of alignment between what IDC, Gartner, NPD and several others are reporting in terms of tablet market share and what's actually happening "on the ground" in terms of usage.
Today comScore confirmed what we already knew: Kindle Fire is the dominant tablet in the non-iPad universe. Comscore reported that the Kindle Fire had 54% of the US Android tablet market and was far ahead of all other Android tablet OEMs including Samsung.
Here's the market-share breakdown in the US Android tablet market according to comScore:
Kindle Fire is a weak competitor to the iPad in terms of overall user experience. However its $199 price has made it extraordinarily successful. Accordingly it set the bar for Android pricing in the 7 inch category, if not the rest of the Android tablet market.
Google will reportedly match or beat that pricing when its own branded tablet goes on sale later this year.
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published what amounts to a round-up of recent Google tablet rumors. None of the information was really new.
Previously Eric Schmidt confirmed that Google would be putting out a "highest quality" tablet at some point later this year. A Google-branded tablet (expected to be 7-inches) is intended to compete directly with the Kindle Fire. It's also a direct response to the failure of other Android tablets to date.
Here's are the quasi-factual nuggets extracted from the WSJ piece:
Earlier rumors suggested that the price might be $149. Either at $149 or $199 a decent 7-inch Google tablet is likely to be highly successful.
The Kindle Fire is actually quite a mediocre tablet compared to the iPad. It's well integrated with Amazon content but that's about it. Email and web surfing are quite painful on the device. Google almost certainly would make a more functional tablet for general purposes. It would also have the benefit of Google's voice actions.
Google also has nearly the content ecosystem that Amazon does (i.e., Google Play). It can also afford to subsidize the device because it will make money on search and mobile display advertising.
A $149 Google tablet would undermine Kindle Fire, compelling Amazon to lower its prices. Pricing here is a key variable. Regardless of whether it comes in at $199 or less, a cheap 7-inch Google tablet will be successful. The outlook for a larger tablet and direct iPad competitior would be more murky.
However I would predict that Google will sell millions of these smaller, highly subsidized devices.
In a new report on the iPad and related user behavior just released by app-store analytics provider Distimo finds that news publications and magazines on the iPad in the US are generating $70,000 daily (among the top 100 newsstand apps). The top five grossing US publications in order are Murdoch's The Daily, The New York Times, The New Yorker, National Geographic and Cosmopolitan.
The report also says that China is now the largest market in the world for free iPad apps, but it's not among the top five countries for paid app revenues. Distimo reported that the top 200 paid apps globally are generating roughly $2 million per day in revenues. The top iPad app-revenue countries are US, UK, Canada and Australia.
The iPad has far more tablet-specfic apps than any of its competitors. The company says that Samsung tablets have roughly 32,000 apps available for various screen sizes. According to Distimo:
However, only a small proportion of applications in Google Play are optimized for tablets. When we look at the Samsung Appstore . . . we see that roughly 32K Android applications are available in the device stores for tablets (Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Tab 7.0 and Galaxy Tab). The majority of applications are available for the Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 10.1 only, but there are also a substantial 4K applications available for the Galaxy Tab 7.0, which has a different screen ratio.
I'm quite surprised by the finding of 32K apps for Android tablets. In my roughly 9 months of 10-inch Galaxy Tab ownership I found almost zero apps for the device. This paucity of tablet-optimized apps is one of the reasons for the failure of Android tablets generally. It's the same catch-22 scenario I discussed yesterday regarding Windows Phones and the lack of apps: because most Android tablets haven't sold, developers so far aren't creating tablet-optimized apps for these devices (Kindle Fire may be an exception).
Given the success of Kindle Fire and Nook it appears that Android tablets will mostly focus on the 7-inch form factor. And at that size smartphone apps are not as glaringly ill-formatted as they are on the 10-inch screen.
Distimo also identified most popular iPad app categories (by downloads) in pink in the chart below:
The gray bar on the right indicates the number of available apps in the category. Where the pink bar exceeds the gray bar, Distimo says there's high demand vs available supply and a corresponding developer opportunity.
On a conference call this morning discussing Apple's decision to issue a dividend and buy back $10 billion worth of shares, CEO Tim Cook said the following about iPad sales so far: “We had a record weekend and we’re thrilled with it.” He declined to discuss it further.
Some analysts and pundits over the weekend were arguing that sales were less than anticipated. However, according to AT&T (via CNN) the company said it saw record activations of the 4G iPad on its network:
On Friday, March 16, AT&T set a new single-day record for its iPad sales and activations, demonstrating robust demand for the new iPad on the nation's largest 4G network, covering nearly 250 million people.
We won't know what pre-order and initial weekend sales were unless or until Apple puts out a press release. Given AT&T and Tim Cook's remarks, however, I suspect the company will do so.
Update: And they did a little while ago. Apple said it had sold more than 3 million "new iPads" as of today: "Apple today announced it has sold three million of its incredible new iPad, since its launch on Friday, March 16."
According to a sweeping report from the Pew Reseach Center ("State of the News Media 2012"), 27% of the US adult population now gets its news on smartphones and tablets. The report says that "70% of desktop/laptop owners report getting news on their computers. Half of smartphone owners (51%) use their phones for news. A majority of tablet owners (56%) use the devices for news."
Mobile news consumers, especially users of news apps, are more engaged than their PC counterparts: "People spend more time per session with news on mobile devices than they do on computers, and read more articles per session and more articles per month."
The data were collected through various surveys earlier this year. They show that people are accessing news on multiple devices, more frequently. Mobile news consumption appears to generally be "additive" to consumption on the PC, although there's evidence that smartphone and tablet owners are shifting some of news reading to those devices.
Pew also says that "mobile news consumers are even more likely to turn to news organizations directly, through apps and home pages, rather than search or recommendations — strengthening the bond with traditional brands."
Although people are getting news on multiple devices, 82% of survey respondents get their digital news primarily on a computer. Pew adds, however, "But much of that may mainly come from the computer being their only digital option . . . 43% of all desktop/laptop owners [do not] own another device."
Pew observed that for people with multiple devices some amount of their news consumption is shifting, "[A]s we have seen with other technology shifts, consumers are drawn to newer forms and may even make them their primary mode, but they are not abandoning older forms altogether. Instead their news experience widens and deepens."
Smartphone owners who read news on their handsets are evenly split, "46% still get most of their news on the desktop/laptop; 45% get most on their smartphone." For iPad and Kindle Fire owners, "47% still get most of their digital news via desktops or laptops, while a third, 34%, have already transitioned to consuming most of their news on the tablet."
On the PC Web most news publishers were largely "disintermediated" by search (Google). Their brands were diluted and weakened as they were presented among hundreds of news sources for a given story. They were often out-maneuvered by aggregators and others more skilled at SEO. Mobile news apps and the move away from search as universal content gateway (in mobile) gives publishers an opportunity to reestablish a more direct relationship with the consumer -- and with that capture more digital revenue.
Today the iPad pre-orders arrive and the iPad becomes available in stores. Yesterday reviews of "The New iPad" come out and overall they're very positive. Based on the success of iPad pre-orders, financial analysts have boosted their estimates of iPad sales for 2012. Some are now saying that Apple may sell a combined total of 65 million iPads or more this year.
One question is whether this lead will be so overwhelming that rivals will be shut out. So far the only successful Android tablet is the Kindle Fire and that success is largely based on its price. It's an inferior product, whose sales could be affected by the reduced price iPad2 ($399).
Yet IDC has projected that the iPad will be overtaken by Android tablets in 2016. IDC estimated that Amazon sold 4.7 million tablets in Q4 of last year.
The chart above reflects "shipments" and not actual sales. The logic behind this forecast showing Android overtaking the iPad is based on a simplistic analogy to the iPhone, and Android's growth over a period of years to a dominant market-share position. However, as several others have pointed out, the better analogy might be the iPod, which established a dominant market share and was never challenged.
In the US, Apple maintained an exclusive iPhone relationship with AT&T for three years after launch. That allowed Android to develop huge momentum. People were more inclined to buy an altenative smartphone than change carriers. The iPad has no such carrier constraints.
There have so far been well over 100 Android tablets and all but the Kindle and Nook have fallen flat. It's unlikely there are any new tablets on the horizon that will have great success -- Google's rumored 7" inexpensive tablet could be an exception. As I've written before, Android tablet OEMs are "boxed in" on pricing by Kindle on the one end and the iPad on the other. The lower-priced iPad2 makes their lives even harder.
The next test for the iPad will be the arrival of Windows 8 tablets, the first of which will probably show up for holiday shopping at the end of the year. But for at least three quarters the iPad will have little or no competition. That could enable Apple to sell 45 or 50 million more tablets.
In two years, the iPad has gone from being a "frivilous" and "unnecessary" device to outselling PCs. Yesterday Apple unveiled the "3rd generation iPad" or "the new iPad," if you prefer. It boasted a range of upgrades, including the "retina display," 4G models, improved cameras, improved software and a new quad-core processor, among others.
Last week ad network InMobi surveyed North American users and found that 30% of respondents were interested in buying the new iPad (many would also buy an iPad2 at a reduced price). The following was a list of most desired features according to the survey:
Interestingly Apple delivered on almost all of these except "size & weight" (smaller, lighter iPad). On battery life the iPad already does incredibly well, better than any laptop or other tablet (except the original Kindle). So that was probably something of an unreasonable expectation. The fact that it was able to deliver 4G with a nine hour batter life is pretty remarkable actually.
Users also got the ability to buy the iPad2 at an entry level price of $399. Apple is going to sell a lot of those also. The price is close enough to Amazon's Kindle Fire that it could affect sales of that device.
It's not clear how many people pre-ordered a new iPad, although the initial batch of white 4G models may have sold out based on the absence of a March 16 delivery date on the Apple site.
During the press conference yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook showed what was perhaps the most significant slide of the event:
Amazingly the iPad outsold PC vendors in Q4 2011 -- not collectively but each individual vendor. And because consumer PC sales are flat this will likely continue to happen in the future. Tablets are an emerging "necessity," not just for gadget savvy consumers but for PC makers who could see their fortunes decline dramatically if the trend holds.
Thus all of the OEMs on this slide shown yesterday are compelled to enter the tablet market. They literally can't afford to ignore it now. They can choose from the Android OS or the forthcoming Windows 8. Dell is banking on Windows 8 to boost its fortunes.
Windows 8, which is supposed to be a cross-platform OS and which has received some favorable early reviews, remains a wild card. There's not going to be a Windows 8 tablet until Q4, if then. In the meantime Apple may have sold 20 - 30 million more iPads, including in the enterprise. (If Microsoft builds an iPad version of Office, that will partly undermine the case for Windows 8 tablets.)
Among the OEMs that have chosen Android, they confront the problem of competing without many specialized tablet apps and against the price pressure created by Amazon's Kindle Fire ($199) and the WiFi iPad ($499). In other words, if they try to price their tablets to create PC-like margins, they won't sell. If they price tablets aggressively (as they must) they may sell units but they won't make any money.
We've known for several years how important and influential smartphones are in finding local business information, especially "on the go." However the latest Local Search User Study from Localeze, 15 Miles and comScore documents, among other things, the increasing role of tablets in the process of finding offline information.
Consistent with other consumer data in the market, the survey of 4,000 US adults found that the top reason for conducting a local business lookup on a mobile device/smartphone is the immediate need for information. Interestingly, the survey discovered that nearly half (49%) of smartphone and tablet owners were using apps for local business searches (e.g., Yelp, Urbanspoon, YP.com) vs browser-based search (e.g., Google).
The Local Search Study also found that while tablets were used "throughout the [local search] process," usage was concentrated in the early and middle stages (research + consideration) of the purchase process. This might be expected because of the analogy to PC usage. However comScore found that among the three groups (PC, smartphone, tablet users) tablet owners are the most engaged and active: "most tablet users conduct local business searches at least once a week . . . more frequently than PC/Laptop users and mobile phone users."
Another interesting finding: tablet owners had increased their usage of the devices over the past year. That wasn't equally true of smartphone owners. Part of the higher levels of tablet engagement can be attributed to the fact that tablets are more "immediate" than PCs but offer a larger display for "more complete information" -- as the graphic above reflects.
Consistent with this heightened engagement the study found that tablet owners were more likely to make purchases after local search activity (which in this case largely mean offline transactions) and spend more money on average.
IHS iSuppli released estimates for tablet market share (using shipments as the operative metric). However in the case of Apple and Amazon shipments is the same as sales to consumers.
Apple previously announced that in Q4 it had sold 15.4 million iPads and a total of 55 million to date. But we didn't know the number of Kindle Fire devices that had sold. Some analysts estimated it was between 4 and 4.5 million. Now iSuppli estimates it was 3.9 million.
With strong Kindle Fire sales in Q4, Amazon zoomed past Samsung to become the number two player in the tablet market. Overall in 2011 Samsung "shipped" more tablets; however shipments does not equal sales to end users. Below are iSuppli's global tablet estimates, showing Amazon with 6% of the market at the end of Q4.
I simply don't believe that Samsung has actually "outsold" Amazon. It may have "shipped" more devices but those devices have largely sat on retailer shelves. Furthermore, Samsung's recent announcement of the Galaxy Tab 2 (7"), with Android 4.0, may be another miscalculation. While it appears to be a nice device, a reported $400+ price tag all but guarantees it won't sell. At that price people will opt for iPads.
As I've repeatedly argued in the past no 7" tablet maker can charge more than about $250 now and expect to compete with Kindle Fire. Samsung would likely be taking a loss if it were to do so. Another way to potentially compete and still preserve margins is to get carriers to subsidize tablets. However this strategy has not worked and consumers have largely shunned carrier-subsidized tablets in favor of WiFi-powered devices. (People simply don't want to give any more money to carriers.)
One of the interesting observations that iSuppli makes is that in Q4 people may have been choosing between the iPhone 4S and iPad. In other words, more iPads would have sold if the 4S hadn't just been released. If that's correct some number of people who actually wanted to buy an iPad may have opted instead for the Kindle Fire because of price sensitivity. Indeed, the Kindle Fire is a vastly inferior device but that inferiority is masked to a degree by Amazon's content ecosystem.
In a related piece of news, Nielsen released some survey data on how parents and kids use tablets: games, education, entertainment in that order.
According to various analyses of Kindle Fire hardware production costs, Amazon is actually subsidizing the cost and taking a small loss on the sale of each device. This was undoubtedly a contributor to Amazon's "disappointing" Q4. The company said it sold millions of Kindle devices without providing any concrete figures.
However the company's strategy has been to use Kindle as a platform or tool to sell other content: e-books, video, music and apps. These are high margin products for Amazon.
A new survey (including 254 Kindle Fire owners) from ChangeWave argues that the company's Kindle Fire strategy is already paying off. Kindle Fire owners reported that they'll be spending more through Amazon in the next quarter than non-Kindle owners:
The relatively low cost of the device ($199) was shown to be the biggest driver of sales and the most "liked" feature of the product:
The chief "dislikes" were: no hardware volume button and no camera. The short battery life was also a complaint. Generally speaking, however, Kindle Fire users seem to be quite satisfied -- though not as satisfied as iPad owners.
Google has vowed to "fight" Kindle Fire and its bid to control the Android tablet market with its own "higest quality" tablet, which may be even more aggressively priced than Kindle.