Is There a Tablet Market or Just an iPad Market?

The tablets keep coming but none of them -- including the RIM Playbook -- have so far seemed to affect the momentum of the iPad or had much of an impact on consumers. As I've said before I now have the Samsung 10.1" tablet (courtesy of Google) and found it lacking compared to the iPad2.

I do think that some of the 7" tablets may do well. And lower-priced 10" tablets may also see some success. But there are many who would now argue that the tablet market is becoming like the MP3 player market of the last decade: all about Apple. While there were lots of MP3 players there was only one visible product and brand: the iPod. 

It's still too early to say that the tablet market is already won, but there are signs that despite the best efforts of Motorola, Samsung and RIM, the iPad remains the most desired tablet by a factor of 4X or more. Survey data released on Monday by Bernstein Research found that consumers were far less interested in rival tablets than the iPad. 

 Screen shot 2011-06-23 at 6.01.45 AM

The same survey found that the 7" tablet form factor wasn't very interesting to consumers either. I'm a bit surprised by this finding and continue to believe Android will see some success with the smaller size. By contrast the 10" tablets feel very derivative of the iPad -- although we haven't yet seen the HP TouchPad in action yet. But it too will probably be shunned by consumers.

According to comScore, the iPad currently accounts for 97% of all tablet-related web traffic in the US. That number is 89% on a global basis

As a consequence of rivals' disappointing tablet rollouts, they have scaled back sales estimates and reduced orders for parts. This includes Motorola's much hyped Xoom and the more recently released Playbook. There are at least a dozen companies bringing tablets to market now and later in the year. Most will probably fail because they seem like imitators of the iPad. (At a low enough price point, i.e., 250, clones can succeed.) 

I've argued elsewhere that the most competitive Google device vs. the iPad is probably the recently launched Chromebook (from Samsung, Acer). However Amazon, which is poised to bring out full-blown color-screen Android tablets, could prove a formidable competitor to Apple over the long term. 

According to a recent report in Taiwan-based DigiTimes:

Amazon is poised to step into tablet PCs and will launch models as soon as August-September, with targeted global sales of four million units for 2011, according to Taiwan-based component makers.

The timing of launch is to meet the peak sales period prior to Thanksgiving in the US and the year-end holidays in the US and Europe, the sources pointed out.

Amazon adopts processors developed by Texas Instruments, with Taiwan-based Wintek to supply touch panels, ILI Technology to supply LCD driver ICs and Quanta Computer responsible for assembly, the sources indicated. Monthly shipments are expected to be 700,000-800,000 units.

One can assume that Android will get better on tablets. Currently Android 3.1 offers an overall inferior user experience to the much more polished iPad software and environment. Improving software, combined with Amazon's Android appstore and the company's brand, distribution and marketing muscle could make Amazon the number two tablet player by early next year.

However success or failure will still largely depend on the quality of the device and how much it costs.