iPad And Android Tablet Market Share Margin Narrows Much Faster Than Originally Predicted

Apple continued to win out in terms of tablet market share this past quarter, according to the latest figures from ABI Research, with a 55 percent share of all shipments during the period. That’s a lead it has had since 2010 when the iPad was introduced, but it’s also the slimmest lead it’s ever had, and represents a dip of 14 percent versus the previous quarter. At this rate, Android could overtake the iPad for tablet share sometime next year, something which seemed unlikely or even impossible in 2010 and 2011.

Shortly after the iPad’s introduction in 2010, there were predictions that Android would eventually overtake Apple’s market share in the tablet market the same way that Android smartphones had done with the iPhone. But early predictions tended to favor 2015 or 2016 as the crossover point at which Android tablets (from a variety of OEMs) would actually overtake iPad sales in terms of broad market share. Others still saw Apple dominating even longer – a 2011 Gartner study suggested Apple would keep 47 percent of the market in 2015, with Android coming up with just 38 percent.

Apple still hasn’t dipped that low, but Android now has 44 percent of the market, owing in part to the utter failure of any other tablet-based mobile platform. HP’s webOS was a brief-lived affair, and RIM’s PlayBook, despite remaining on sale, has failed to become a major competitor to either iOS or Android-based slates. That lack of competitive alternatives has helped Android gain share much faster than most originally predicted, meaning a tipping point might not be that far off.

In fact, a recent projection, analyst Sameer Singh from Finvista Advisors suggests Android may take the crown as early as mid-2013, just next year. The narrowing of the gap is testament to significant improvements in the quality and variety of Android tablet devices available, including strong, inexpensive entrants from Amazon (which are reportedly selling well this holiday season, though there aren’t any numbers attached to those claims), and Google’s Nexus 7 (which we heard some early numbers around from OEM partner Asus). Samsung also saw strong tablet performance, according to ABI.

ABI suggests that the iPad mini has done little to help Apple’s overall tablet sales, but I think it’s too early yet to tell what kind of impact that new form factor will ultimately have on the company’s market share and its own tablet breakdown. And even if Apple loses its majority share of the tablet market in 2013, that likely won’t have a negative impact on its financial performance; losing the smartphone market share crown, for instance, hasn’t stopped iPhone sales from seeing continued positive growth.