Apple’s iPad dominates tablets today, but growing competition and even a diversity of operation systems is going to somehow lift Android and Windows tablets in the future, according to research firm NPD. The company released a report on Thursday predicting that Apple’s share of the tablet market will slip from 72 .1 percent in 2012 to 50.9 percent in 2017.
NPD believes the tablet market will grow from 81.6 million units in 2012 to 424.9 million units in 2017. The firm also increased its 2013 estimates from 168.9 million units to 184.2 million. In the chart below, NPD graphs out how it believes market share for those years will shape up—note that Apple’s share increases in 2012 and then again in 2013, and then begins decreasing.
Worldwide Tablet PC Operating System Forecast
“So far in this relatively young product category, the tablet PC market has been dominated by Apple and has tended to include a number of competing products that are similarly configured to the iPad,” Richard Shim, NPD DisplaySearch Senior Analyst, said in a statement. “However, as the market matures and competitors become better attuned to consumer preferences and find opportunities to break new ground, we expect the landscape to change dramatically, giving consumers more choices, which will drive demand for more devices.”
While many analysts and pundits have pointed to Android fragmentation and the lack of compelling tablet apps as part of the reason Android has struggled against Apple’s iPad, NPD thinks that “a growing diversity” of operating systems is actually increasing demand for tablets.
“A growing diversity of operating systems is driving the increase in demand for tablets, as well as rapidly evolving features,” the company wrote in its report. “At the same time, the capacity of component manufacturing is being increased to meet new market demand.”
Looking at the the firm’s own graph, it’s hard to see how a “growing diversity of operating systems” could be the reason for increased demand. There are five major platforms represented in 2011 and three stating in 2012 (with a fourth being a subset of Android devices).
Fewer platforms and growing sales seems to us to imply the opposite, that the market isn’t particularly interested in a diversity of operating systems. Still, NPD has been a champion of the idea that Apple’s competitors would take share away by the very presence of a multitude of devices being made by a horde of open licensees of both Android and Windows devices. As the saying goes, hope springs eternal.
NPD also noted that Amazon’s Kindle Fire lit up the market, saying, “The industry has already witnessed some diversification in the market with the early success of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, with its ‘razor/razor blade model’ of low-priced device predicated on content purchases.”
On Thursday, we noted that IDC reported that Amazon’s Kindle Fire sales fell off a cliff during the first quarter, dropping from more than 16 percent of the market in Q4 of 2011 to 4 percent in Q1 of 2012. Unit sales fell to 750,000 Kindle Fires, clearly an example of “diversification” taking root in the tablet market.
NPD also offered up a graph of how it expects the tablet market to grow in terms of emerging markets and mature markets, as shown below.
Worldwide Tablet PC Emerging and Mature Market Shipment Forecast