Media Tablets and PC Tablets Will Combine for 242 Million Units Shipped by 2015 As Apple's Dominance Erodes, Researcher Says

A recent report from IHS Inc.'s iSuppli, a U.K.-based researcher, predicted that shipments of media tablets, such as Apple Computer Inc.'s iPad, and PC-like tablets will combine by 2015 for some 242 million units.

The researcher breaks out media tablets, which it projects will boom from 17.4 million units in 2010 to more than 202 million units in 2015, from tablets equipped with full functionality and PC operating systems, which it believes will climb from 2.3 million units in 2010 to 39.3 million by 2015.

Obviously, these are staggering projections, seemingly achievable only if what Rhoda Alexander, IHS director, monitor research, calls "three successive waves of growth" occur, the first of which, of course, already has blown ashore with the iPad.

""The first wave, which is hitting in 2010 and 2011, was created by the arrival of the iPad and the ensuing tsunami of demand for the device," said Alexander. "The second wave, arriving in 2011 and 2012, will be propelled by a deluge of iPad competitors, particularly Android-based models," she said.

And the third wave?

"The third wave, which will turn up in 2013, will consist of a flood of models based on the Windows operating system that will expand the reach of tablets into traditional computer markets," Alexander said.

It's that third wave that will erode Apple's majority share of tablet total unit shipments, she said. Until then, look for Apple's huge head start in the segment to carry it through 2012 at least.

"The year 2013 will mark a critical juncture, as the tablet market turns into a battleground between media tablets using mobile operating systems, and PC-type tablets employing the Windows operating system," Alexander said.

"Add to this mix the competition from ever-improving smartphones, and the mobile device market will get very interesting," she said.

That will be especially so as Microsoft Corp. and the leading computer manufacturers fight to retain control of the PC market.

"Microsoft and the PC makers will engage in a vicious battle to fight off the ongoing share grab from media tablets, even as many of these vendors offer media tablet solutions of their own," Alexander said.

"Expect to see a blend of slates, convertibles and dual- and potentially tri-screen solutions as alternatives to the media tablet onslaught," she said.

Apple's dominance in the market also will come under some serious price competition from new media tablets sporting Google Inc.'s Android operating system carrying some features superior to the iPad, according to Francis SIdeco, iSuppli principal analyst, wireless communications.

"At least three of the major Android tablets released at the Consumer Electronics Show in January featured built-in support for a 4G wireless communications technology--long-term evolution," said Sideco.

"With iPad only supporting 3G for now, it will be interesting to see the outcome of the battle pitting the allure of technology--i.e., LTE--against the appeal of usability--i.e. the iPad's benchmark user friendliness," he said.

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