The Cloudy Apple Crystal Ball
IDC is once again predicting that Android tablet shipments will surpass iPad sales, but the company has upped the ante by predicting it will happen in 2013. The firm is estimating that Android tablets will account for 48.8 percent of the market in 2013, while Apple's iPad share slips to 46 percent.
The reason for this is IDC's usual mantra that the sea of cheap tablets from a myriad of vendors will rise up to overwhelm Apple's single-sourced iPad.
"One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below 8 inches in screen size. And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond" Jitesh Ubrani, Research Analyst for IDC's Tablet Tracker, said in a statement. "Vendors are moving quickly to compete in this space as consumers realize that these small devices are often more ideal than larger tablets for their daily consumption habits."
Pardon me while I roll my eyes. IDC has been beating this drum for a while. The company had previously predicted that Android tablets would outpace iPad by 2015. Other awesome predictions from IDC include a 2011 prediction that Windows Phone would surpass iPhone by 2015 (BlackBerry was predicted to have 13.7 percent share for 2015 in that same report).
Gartner predicted much the same thing in April of 2011. iSuppli jumped on board the Windows Phone train in January of 2012 based on Nokia's Lumia 900 device. Windows Phone currently languishes in obscurity in a market dominated by Android and Apple's iOS, and the Lumia 900 was a non-starter. In the meanwhile, BlackBerry has shrunk to a single-digit has-been.
So, you know, nice call IDC/Gartner/iSuppli.
For the tablet market, IDC is being much less bullish on Microsoft's prospects. The firm is projecting 4.7 percent share for Windows 8 RT and Windows 8. By 2015, IDC thinks that will somehow jump to 10.1 percent, with most of the growth in the non-RT version of Windows.
Really, though, that's still pretty bullish considering the reality that Surface has been a flop. IDC even acknowledged that in its report, saying:
Microsoft's decision to push two different tablet operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, has yielded poor results in the market so far. Consumers aren't buying Windows RT's value proposition, and long term we think Microsoft and its partners would be better served by focusing their attention on improving Windows 8. Such a focus could drive better share growth in the tablet category down the road.
Uh-huh, and watch out for Nokia zooming up the charts with a badass Windows Phone device, too.
Are You Experienced?
What the report doesn't address is the reality that no one does anything with Android tablets. Yes, in a world where everything is equal, it makes sense that Android would do to iPad what it did to iPhone. That's what many researchers can't seem to grasp, however. In the tablet world, everything is not equal.
I've argued for years that tablet demand is sparked by the experience, and I've further argued that the tablet market would more closely resemble the MP3 player market more than the iPhone market. To this day, Apple still controls some 70 percent of the MP3 player market.
Assuming IDC's estimates of 46 percent share hit the mark, that's still closer to the iPod than iPhone's less-than-20 percent share, but I'll be surprised if Android tablets do pass up iPad.
Why? Because no one does anything with their Android tablets, while people use the heck out of their iPads. It's still about the experience, and Amazon, Google, and even Samsung can sell their devices at a loss all day long and it still won't offer the kind of compelling experience that has made iPad and iPad mini such a hit.
IDC hasn't addressed this. Gartner hasn't addressed this. iSuppli hasn't addressed this. They all seem too busy applying Microsoft's disrupted PC paradigm to the tablet market to look at this issue.
Worse, they're all counting Amazon's Kindle Fire family as sales of Android devices. Personally, I think Kindle Fire should be broken out as the third major tablet platform, but that's a subject for another time. It's not going to happen, in part because it reinforces the mindset of the researchers in question.
This is all more of the same old thing. The industry doesn't grok Apple, its ecosystem, its value proposition, and it never has.