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HindustanTimes Fri,25 Apr 2014

Tablets taking over

AFP   April 13, 2013
First Published: 10:46 IST(13/4/2013) | Last Updated: 12:21 IST(15/4/2013)

Experts predict yet another record year for device shipments and believe that 2013 will be the year that Samsung's products start to challenge the iPad.

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The world PC market may be in crisis but the demand for tablets looks set to grow and grow with the latest projections putting total shipments for the mobile devices at 150 million by the end of the year.

According to ABI Research, tablets' combination of convenience and mobility is what has consumers hooked and is why 2013 will continue where 2012 stopped, with record sales for a type of device that only came into existence three years ago.

Compare those figures with the current state of the desktop and notebook market. According to both IDC and Gartner, who published their figures this week, shipments this quarter dipped below 80 million units for the first time since 2009.

Although some may point to ongoing economic uncertainty as a factor in falling PC sales, Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, disagrees. "The overall economy had some upward momentum, it did not help buoy PC growth, suggesting the economic recovery is having little impact on PC market conditions," she said. Instead, both Gartner and IDC point to tablets and smartphones as the reason for this continued slump. "Consumers are migrating content consumption from PCs to other connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Even emerging markets, where PC penetration is low, are not expected to be a strong growth area for PC vendors," said Kitagawa.

Up until now, as the inventor of the segment and the definer of user experience, Apple's iPad has been head and shoulders above any other branded tablet in terms of sales and desire but, three years on, the tide is slowly turning in Android's favor and ABI expects the iPad's market share to reduce over the next 12 months. In 2012, 60 percent of tablets shipped carried Apple's iconic logo, compared with the growing number of devices, from the Samsung Galaxy Tab to the Google Nexus 7 which run a version of the Android operating system and which accounted for 37 percent of global shipments.

"The tide is definitely turning toward Android-based tablets, though Apple will not slouch as it feels the competition approaching," said ABI Research'ss mobile devices senior practice director Jeff Orr. "The iPad mini was a timely introduction in 2012, though ABI Research remains cautious about the bottom line impact this is having for Apple. The first quarter of 2013 should be the first time where production was able to meet market demand and a better sense of how much 9.7" iPad volume has switched to the smaller, lower-cost mini will be understood."

ABI believes that this could be Samsung's year to assert its dominance and catch up with Apple in terms of tablet sales. It now offers six different tablets ranging in size from 7-inches to 10.1-inches, and this month also officially launched the Galaxy Note 8.0 which, with an 8-inch screen, is built and priced to compete directly with the iPad Mini, as well as its closest Android competitors. "A well-executed Samsung tablet strategy could double the company's market share this year," adds Orr.

But Samsung is not the only company attempting to grow its market share. Microsoft is reportedly currently burning the midnight oil in an attempt to have an 7-inch tablet of its own ready to ship before the end of 2013 and a leaked road map document reveals that BlackBerry, despite its precarious position, is set to roll out a tablet within the next 12 months.

At the same time, Google is putting the final touches to its refreshed Nexus 7 tablet, which is expected to hit the shelves in July, and Amazon recently slashed the price of its Kindle Fire HD devices.

All of which is good news for consumers, because more competition means more innovation, and ultimately more choice.

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