SAN FRANCISCO—Apple Inc.'s iPad is set to continue dominating the tablet computer market through at least 2012, accounting for nearly two-thirds of tablet shipments that year, according to a forecast released Wednesday (Aug. 25) by market research firm iSuppli Corp.
The iPad is expected to account for 74.1 percent of global tablet shipments in 2010, 70.4 percent of shipments in 2011 and 61.7 percent of shipments in 2012, according to the forecast.
Though there are a number of rival products in the works, iSuppli (El Segundo, Calif.) said it doesn't expect the iPad to face any real competition until sometime next year. Even if consumers are drawn to the rival products, it will take Apple's competitors until at least 2012 to develop ecosystems of tablet applications and content that can rival those of Apple, iSuppli said.
"Although the iPad has been on the market for only a few months, powerful interests throughout the technology business are devoting enormous resources to challenge and topple Apple's domination in this fast-growing marketplace," said Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research at iSuppli, in a statement. "However, if recent history is any lesson, it will take some time for these companies to get their products to market, longer for them to offer necessary software support and infrastructure, and an even lengthier period to begin to rival the overall user experience Apple is able to deliver."
Last month iSuppli said it expects Apple to ship 12.9 million iPad units this year, followed by 36.5 million next year and 50.4 million in 2012.
ISuppli draws parallels between the introduction of iPad and that of the iPhone several years ago. Launched in June 2007, the iPhone was followed by a range of competing products over the next two years, including the Samsung F700, the UTStarcom XV6800, the Google G1 and the Palm Pre. But it took nearly three years for the competition to offer phones that were not just in the ballpark of being comparable to the iPhone, but also were truly differentiated and superior in some respects, according to iSuppli’s mobile market research. These phones today include the Motorola Droid, coming 29 months after the iPhone introduction, and the HTC Evo 4G, released 36 months after the iPhone, iSuppli said.
ISuppli said it considers a number of current products to be iPad competitors, including Android- and Windows 7-based tablets from Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. and Lenovo. But the market research firm does not believe any of these are a serious competitor to the iPad.
"Companies are quickly developing products that match or exceed some of the surface hardware specifications of the Apple iPad," Alexander said. "But it’s still unlikely that any of the competitors will be able to equal the overall performance experience of the iPad."
According to Alexander, Apple's complete integration of hardware, software, operating system and applications is what sets the iPad apart. "And on that basis—an integrated hardware/software design—we don't see anything in the marketplace at present that seems likely to rival what Apple is offering in tablets today," Alexander said.
Alexander noted that leaked images of an apparently forthcoming tablet from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., similar it its Galaxy phone, are now in wide circulation. He also noted that rumors are rampant that Research in Motion Ltd. will offer an iPad competitor following its recent purchase of the "BlackPad" domain name.
But Alexander said he believes the most interesting near-term iPad competition is likely to come from HP, which has experience in building PC-level devices, as well as access to a proprietary WebOS through the company’s Palm acquisition. HP’s iPad challenger is unlikely to appear before 2011 and probably will include multiple products, Alexander said.
Rumors have also surfaced that Google will release a Chrome OS tablet on this year’s Black Friday, Nov. 26, but that seems unlikely given that iSuppli sources indicate the initial Chrome OS does not have touch screen display support, Alexander said.
ISuppli is offering for sale through its website Alexander's latest report on portable and desktop computing.