Apple better have enjoyed its time at the tablet top spot. Android's coming to take the iPad's perch, at least according to one analyst.
The iPad has been the king of the tablet market for some time now. It sold 100 million units since its debut in 2010, when it dominated with a 87 percent market share, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).
At a recent press conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the iPad accounts for 91 percent of all tablet web traffic. A pretty impressive stat, but no one stays on top forever.
Sometime in mid-2013, Android tablet sales will surpass the iPad according to projections by Sameer Singh, an analyst with Finvista Advisors, a mergers and acquisitions consulting group in a recent Tech-Thoughts blog post.
Androids take over
Android has been out growing Apple for the better part of the last two years.
After a brief boom and bust at the end of 2011, sales of Android tablets picked up at a good pace during the first half of 2012. In six of the last eight quarters, Android's shipping rates have outstripped the iPad's growth.
"Competitors are turning up the pressure on market leader Apple," Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobile Device Trackers, said in a recent report cited by Singh.
End of the Apple dynasty
As Android caught up, the iPad was starting to lose pace.
This October was the start of a particularly bad quarter for the iPad. Its market share eroded to 50.4 percent as rumors about the iPad mini loomed.
"We believe a sizeable percentage of consumers interested in buying an Apple tablet sat out the third quarter in anticipation of an announcement about the new iPad mini," Tom Mainelli, research director for tablets at IDC, wrote in the same report.
"However, we believe the mini's relatively high $329 (UK£269, AUD$369) starting price leaves plenty of room for Android vendors to build upon the success they achieved in the third quarter."
It's a good start, but it won't help hold off Android that much longer.
The prize is in the price
Ultimately, like Mainelli's comments suggest, it all comes down to prices. Singh noted that Amazon's diverse price points really help the Kindle gain ground for Android.
"Overall, we think that price matters a lot," Ben Schachter, an analyst with Macquarie Securities, told TechRadar.
"With Android devices offering similar (if still somewhat less polished) experiences for significantly lower prices, consumers will respond."
As more Android vendors pick up from Amazon's lead, the operating system should chip away at the iPad. Unless Cook and company do something drastic, the slow and steady growth of Android sales will eventually catch up to the ebb and flow of iPad releases.
This town is big enough for the both of us
Though Apple's crown is in jeopardy, Singh said things aren't too grim for the Cupertino company.
Even if the iPad is losing market share, Apple is still doing pretty well. The tech giant recently posted $28.3 billion (UK£17.8 billion, AUD$27 billion) in revenue, with a $6.6 billion (UK£4.2 billion, AUD$6.3 billion) net profit.
It's still a large tablet market with a lot of money to be made, which Apple should continue to have a big presence in. Singh sees a rapid rise in volume for both platforms as tablets become more and more popular over the coming years.
Looks like Apple will just have to settle for about half the tablet market.
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