Despite iPad Lead, Forecast Shows Android Overtaking It in 2016

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.

Screen shot 2012-03-16 at 7.52.43 AM

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.