Small Android Tablets Mean Apple Needs to Move

By Doug Mohney August 02, 2013

Android tablets are now outpacing Apple iPad, according to recent statistics by Canalys. It's déjà vu PC vs. Mac all over again, and Apple better start either moving faster or open up a new product category to dominate.

Over 34 million tablets shipped in the second quarter of 2013, a 43-percent increase year over year. Tablets now account for 31 percent of worldwide PC shipments, says Canalys – a stat I'm not sure I like because equating a tablet directly to a PC doesn't work for me. 

Apple's tablet shipments declined 14 percent as compared to Q2 2012, with its market share dropping to 43 percent – a dramatic drop from dominating the market at over 71 percent market share in Q2 2012. Samsung, Amazon, Lenovo and Acer each grew annually by over 200 percent, driven by increasing demand for smaller size tablets under 9 inches, so Apple not only shipped fewer tablets but the overall market "pie" grew larger with a flood of devices.

Canalys Analysis James Wang says the honeymoon for Apple in tablets is over, with an aging portfolio and less "buzz" since the product category is now defined.  "Tablets are now mainstream products and hardware innovation is increasingly difficult," said Wang."With branded Android tablets available for less than $150, the PC market has never been so good for consumers, who are voting with their wallets."

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However, it's not all bad news for Apple. Content, apps and accessories are now even more important to boost margins, given the price war at the low end – all area where Apple remains a leader.

Android also has its work cut out for it, says Canalys, since the OS lags in the availability of well-tuned tablet apps and available choices for apps from Google Play. However, developers are expected to flock to Android given the continued and broader growth of Android tablets.

One area Canalys doesn't address in its press release this week is the enterprise market, an area that numerous vendors at CTIA singled out as a place where Apple doesn't do well over the long run. Enterprises ended up embracing PCs and Windows, leaving Apple to niche applications. While Apple established what a tablet could look like and do with the iPad, it did little to address business requirements – a pattern repeated with the iPhone and dating back to the introduction of the Macintosh. 

Many analysts and media types have suggested or argued that Apple needs to go low-price/low-end in order to keep market share, but such a move goes against the DNA embedded in the company to emphasize quality over price.   

I'm willing to bet that Apple is more likely to be successful by sticking to type by opening up/defining new categories, introducing an "iWatch" and/or an Apple big screen TV experience, rather than trying to fight it out on slimmer hardware margins.

Edited by Alisen Downey

Contributing Editor

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