Gazing Into the iPad vs. Non-iPad Crystal Ball

Forecasting the tablet trend, and whether or not to include that device with overall notebook computer sales, has become something of a sport among analysts and anonymous “market watchers” recently, as evidenced by stories hitting the Internet Monday and Tuesday.


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On Monday, Deutsche Bank’s Chris Whitmore issued an analysis of 2Q11 notebook computer sales, with and without the iPad included. Without the iPad included, Apple is dead last among six vendors, with it included, Apple zooms to the top, as noted by Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt. It’s not clear, though, if Mr. Whitmore includes all other tablets in his with-iPad analysis.

Mr. Whitmore’s chart

Mr. Whitmore is quoted as writing in a research note: “Within the computing market, we see significant opportunity for Apple to take meaningful share in the second half as the Microsoft / PC ecosystem is relatively stagnant, lacking meaningful new offerings. On the other hand, Apple will be competing with an upgraded Mac OS, new MacBook Airs (and other forthcoming Macs) and a new iPad iOS. Within the Tablet market, the iPad remains the Gold Standard as competitors struggle for mindshare and traction (note HP’s price cuts on the TouchPad).”

Thus he sees Apple “particularly well positioned for more share gains heading into the back-to- school and holiday selling season.”

Meanwhile, Forrester’s Sarah Rotman Epps on Tuesday issued a report in which she said, “Right now there just isn’t a convincing alternative to the iPad,” according to The Telegraph. However, she feels that Amazon is “the most likely disrupter” in the US, and she expects its forthcoming tablet to “come in with a price that is far lower than any that we’ve seen.”

In Europe, Ms. Rotman Epps sees Apple’s challengers coming in the form of cheap tablets from Asia. While she expects Apple to sell 80 percent of all tablets in the US, she forecasts the company holding a 70 percent share in Europe.

And if that isn’t a convincing argument, Needham & Company’s Charlie Wolf has published a report in which he sees Apple commanding 85 percent of the tablet market this year, dipping to 72.5 percent in 2015 and holding steady at 60 percent in 2020, when he sees Apple shipping 140 million units. He forecasts Apple will ship 54 million iPads in 2012.

Time magazine’s Techland site quoted Mr. Wolf as saying: “Future tablets are more likely to steal share from one another than from the iPad. All of them have been greeted with a yawn and lackluster sales. None have been able to undercut the aggressively priced iPad, because the iPad’s component costs are materially lower than those of competing tablets. In the case of tablets, the only thing that matters— that turns what’s otherwise a slab into a versatile device— are the apps. And the applications available on the tablets introduced this year number at best in the hundreds. In comparison, more than 100,000 applications are available on the iPad.”

Finally, if you’re looking for a splash of cold water, Techland also cites a DigiTimes article that says non-Apple tablet shipments will leap 134 percent next year, with iPad sales growing 55 percent because “demand is nearing saturation levels.” However, that piece only cites anonymous “market watchers,” who could very well be relatives of the authors.