May 02, 2013

Global Tablet Market Delivers Strong Q1 2013 Sales - iPad Still Dominates


Yesterday we published an article that focused on BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins suggesting that the tablet market will die out in five years. We did not of course put much stock in that particular assessment. We suspect that research firm IDC probably doesn't put much stock in it either. The company has just come out with its Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker report and all indications are that the tablet market is growing by leaps and bounds.

In fact, according to IDC tablet shipments grew to 49.2 million units - a whopping 142.4 percent increase year over year in Q1 2013. That number was greater than all tablet sales for the entire first half of 2012. As Apple noted during its recent earnings call, the company managed to sell 19.5 million iPads in Q1 2013 - a huge increase in sales of 65.3 percent year over year. That number is notable because there is almost always a fairly significant drop between Q1 and the preceding Q4 - which is the holiday buying season quarter. Sales of iPads were indeed strong.

It is worth noting that Apple continues to dominate among individual vendors - though its overall share of the global tablet market declined - which is hardly surprising and completely to be expected, its own sales skyrocketed along with the tablet market itself.

Samsung on its own - and we suspect primarily on the strength of the marketing buzz it has created around its Samsung Galaxy smartphones, managed to deliver above expectations as well. Though the company "only" sold 8.8 million tablets in Q1 2013, for Samsung it represented a 282.6 percent leap in sales. As did Apple, Samsung also handily beat out its preceding Q4 holiday quarter sales for tablets.

The chart below puts the numbers in perspective for Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Asus and Amazon - the top five tablet vendors in Q1 2013.

Even the "Others" category grew by over 216 percent. Unfortunately for Heins, his theory on tablets isn't quite going to hold up.

ASUS moved into the number 3 spot and Amazon dropped to the number 4 position. Neither company can even remotely match what Apple is doing with tablet sales or what Samsung is able to pull off.

Tom Mainelli, research director for tablets at IDC suggests that for Apple in particular, "Sustained demand for the iPad mini and increasingly strong commercial shipments led to a better-than expected first quarter for Apple. In addition, by moving the iPad launch to the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple seems to have avoided the typical first-quarter slowdown that traditionally occurred when consumers held off buying in January and February in anticipation of a new product launch in March."

Perhaps the most interesting thing to note is that, as with smartphones, Android is generally now becoming the "collective" market leader in shipped tablets. For some that may scream out as an "Android Kills Off iPad" headline, but we hardly think that is the case. Even at 39.6 percent market share Apple remains the dominant tablet player.

IDC notes that the numbers presented here are preliminary but they will more or less end up reflecting reality. So, what is perhaps the most intriguing number on the chart has to be Microsoft - which has managed to sneak into fifth place on the chart. We don't have any real numbers from Microsoft itself (it didn't provide any during its recent Q1 2013 earnings call) and it has been a speculator's game as to what the Surface Pro and Surface RT numbers might be. Well, IDC has taken its shot - around 900,000 units. IDC further estimates that total combined Windows 8 and Windows RT shipments across all vendors reached 1.8 million units.

Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobility Tracker program says about Microsoft that, "Recent rumors have circulated about the possibility of smaller screen Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets hitting the market. However, the notion that this will be the saving grace is flawed. Clearly the market is moving toward smart 7-8 inch devices, but Microsoft's larger challenges center around consumer messaging and lower cost competition. If these challenges are addressed, along with the desired screen size variations, then we could see Microsoft make even further headway in 2013 and beyond."

Reith is absolutely right about consumer messaging and costs - issues we've noted often in our own previous analysis. But let's give Microsoft a break. Let's see how the game plays out for the company through the end of the year.

In the meantime, don't let anyone - Heins or otherwise, tell you that the tablet market is headed south. Or that Android is killing the iPad. None of it is true.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi




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