Survey Finds Tablet Market Is Now a 1.3 Horse Race

Consumers have finally found a tablet that garners 34% of the interest as Apple’s iPad, making the tablet horse a 1.3 horse race. Changewave Research released results for its November survey on future buying intent in the tablet market and found that Amazon’s Kindle Fire has firmly claimed a distant #2 spot in demand behind Apple’s iPad.

Let’s start by looking at the trends. Changewave found that 14% of respondents were planning to purchase a media tablet in the next 90 days—that’s double the number from the August survey and more than three times the number in its November 2010 survey. The figure below shows that trend line for the last 13 months.

Changewave Chart

Of those 14% of respondents planning to buy a tablet, 65% of them plan on buying an iPad. Should those buying plans be borne out, Apple will have a 65% of a market that has grown by a factor of three in the last year.

Changewave put it thus: “Apple continues to show enormous strength in the tablet market, where it’s enjoying the best quarter in its history, according to the survey.”

At the same time, however, the research firm added, “While two-out-of-every-three future buyers plan on purchasing an Apple iPad (65%), for the first time since the launch of the original model, there is a double-digit contender for the number two spot.”

The figure below shows the top three devices, Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. The iPad leads Kindle Fire by almost 3:1, but the Kindle Fire leads the Galaxy Tab by 5.5:1, and Changewave notes that, “No other manufacturer is garnering more than 1% of future tablet demand among consumers.”

Changewave Chart

That speaks to how dominant Apple’s position has been in the tablet market, but it also speaks to how big a splash Amazon has made with its Kindle Fire tablet. It might lag far behind Apple in terms of purchase intent, but it’s the first non-Apple media tablet to be able to thrust its head above the riff raff of the other Android devices.

Looking more closely at the Kindle Fire’s results, Changewave found that 2% of the 14% planning on buying a tablet in the next 90 days had already pre-ordered a Kindle Fire. 5% were “Very Likely” to buy one, while another 12% were “Somewhat Likely” to buy one, as shown in the figure below.

Changewave Chart

Since the survey was taken, Amazon shipped the Kindle Fire, and some analysts think Amazon will sell as many as five million units during the Christmas quarter.

If the device does end up doing well, Changewave said that an, “Amazon surge may also contain a silver lining for Apple, by damaging the tablet market hopes of the remaining competitors in the field.”

To that end, the company also said that the survey shows the Kindle Fire is, “wreaking a devastating blow to a range of second tier tablet manufacturers, including Motorola, RIM, Dell, HTC, H-P and Toshiba.”

Most, if not all, of those companies are seldom included on anyone’s list of “second tier” makers of just about anything, but the tablet market continues to be something more appropriately called “the iPad market.” So far, that has meant that all other contenders aside from Amazon are considered “second tier,” no matter how big their stature in other markets.

Changewave believes that some of this is because Apple continues to hold far higher customer satisfaction marks than other tablet makers. The figure below shows that 74% of respondents are “Very Satisfied” with their iPads, while 49% of respondents who own other tablets said the same thing. That survey does not include Kindle Fire owners, as the device hadn’t shipped when the company conducted the survey.

Changewave Chart