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iPad 3 under attack from growing Android sales

Barry de la Rosa
26 Jan 2012
Tablet market share
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Apple still ahead, but Android catching up fast; is there any hope for Microsoft?

Apple's next generation tablet, rumoured to be announced at the end of February, can't be launched soon enough for the Californian company. Google's Android operating system is snapping at its heels, shipping three times as many tablets as it did last year, while the iPad2 has only doubled its sales in a market that has risen from a total of 10.7m units last year to 26.8m units this year. Tablets running a Microsoft operating system accounted for only 400,000 sales last year.

The figures come from a report released by global analysis firm Strategy Analytics. Sales of Android tablets grew faster last year than those of Apple's rival iPad, rising from 3.1m units in Q4 2010 to 10.7m units in Q4 2011, giving Google's mobile operating system a market share of 39%, up from 29% last year. In the same period, Apple tablet sales rose from 7.3m to 15.4m units, but its market share actually dropped from 68% to 58%.

Tablet market share

Tablet market share. Source: www.strategyanalytics.com - click to enlarge

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, commented, “Dozens of Android models distributed across multiple countries by numerous brands such as Amazon, Samsung, Asus and others have been driving volumes. Android is so far proving relatively popular with tablet manufacturers despite nagging concerns about fragmentation of Android’s operating system, user-interface and app store ecosystem.”

The iPad 3 is rumoured to be nearing completion, with some speculating a launch date planned to coincide with the birthday (24th Feb) of Apple founder Steve Jobs, who died last year. This would take attention away from the mobile industry's Mobile World Congress event - which Apple never attends - that starts on the 27th of the month.

Although speculation is rife, it's likely that the next iPad may not be very different from the current model, and may even be a less powerful and more budget-conscious model designed to go head-to-head with cheaper Android tablets such as Amazon's Kindle Fire.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is hoping there's still a slice of the pie left for its Windows 8 operating system, which has been designed with touchscreen interfaces in mind. There's not much it can do until Windows 8 starts shipping, and then it will be up to its hardware partners to produce competitive tablets based on the new touch-friendly OS.

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