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Android, Windows Be Damned: The Tablet Market Isn’t Changing

Despite huge growth and Windows making a comeback, the tablet market really won’t change all that much in the coming years.
December 5, 2012

The tablet market is poised for major growth in the coming years, but don’t expect the companies competing in that market to see their positions change all that much.

Research firm IDC today released its estimates on tablet market share in 2016. The company believes that Apple’s iOS will take the top spot with 49.7 percent market share that year, followed by Android-based devices at 39.7 percent. Windows-based tablets will own 10.3 percent of the market.

Interestingly, not much will change over the next four years. Apple’s iOS platform will end this year with 53.8 percent market share, followed by Android with 42.7 percent. Microsoft’s Windows will only be able to muster 2.9 percent share this year.

All told, 122.3 million tablets will ship worldwide this year. Total shipments will hit 282.7 million in 2016.

If IDC’s data is to be believed, not much will change in the tablet market in the coming years. More tablets will ship and more revenue and profits will be earned, but purchase behavior won’t move one bit.

According to IDC’s data, Apple currently has an 11.1-percentage-point lead over Android. In 2016, that lead will be 10 percentage points – not exactly a major difference. And although Windows will have far more share in 2016 than it does now, it’ll still be a distant third behind the others.

Although Apple’s success is well-documented and people tend to believe that it’s dominant in every market it competes in, that’s really not the case. Apple’s OS X is far behind the dominant Windows. In the smartphone market, sales might be strong, but Samsung actually sells more handsets than Apple. And in the mobile operating system market, Android is in total control, accounting for 75 percent of all shipments in the third quarter.

Even after all these years, Apple’s iPod is one of its few clearly dominant products.

That is, of course, except for the iPad. Judging by IDC’s figures, the iPad will be able to do what the iPhone hasn’t in the mobile market: keep Android and Google at bay. The tablet will also be able to keep Windows down – a feat that has escaped Apple for decades in the desktop market.

Still, it’s hard to see how any company really loses in that scenario. According to IDC, despite a slight market share hit, Apple’s compound annual growth rate in shipments over the next four years will be 20.9 percent. Android shipment compound annual growth rate will reach 21 percent. And Windows will tally a mammoth 69.2 percent compound annual growth rate.

“Tablets continue to captivate consumers, and as the market shifts toward smaller, more mobile screen sizes and lower prices points, we expect demand to accelerate in the fourth quarter and beyond,” IDC tablet research director Tom Mainelli said today in a statement.

But even with all of that growth, don’t expect much to change.

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