Apple's Biggest Tablet Rival? Apple
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Apple iPad 2 family
The iPad 2 remains a solid choice, thanks to its lower price and strong app choices.
Analyst firm IHS has said that sales of Apple's iPad in the fourth quarter of 2011 could have been even greater if it weren't for the iPhone 4S.
Apple sold 15.4 million iPads in Q4 -- up 39 percent from the 11.1 million sold in Q3 -- but its tablet PC market share slipped to 57 percent from 64 percent over the same period, IHS said.
"Shipments of the iPad line fell short of IHS estimates in the fourth quarter as many loyal Apple customers devoted their dollars to shiny new alternatives," said Rhoda Alexander, senior manager, tablet and monitor research for IHS.
"However, the primary alternative wasn't the Kindle Fire, which debuted to solid sales in the fourth quarter, but Apple's own iPhone 4S smartphone. The rollout of the iPhone 4S in October generated intense competition for Apple purchasers' disposable income, doing more to limit iPad shipment growth than competition from the Kindle Fire and other media tablets."
Of course, there were other reasons too, such as the launch of the Kindle Fire by Amazon, which had a big effect on the global and US tablet markets, as the company came from nowhere to grab a 14 percent share in Q4 2011.
In fact, Amazon sold enough tablet PCs to account for a 6 percent share of the tablet market for the whole of 2011, behind Samsung's 9 percent share but ahead of Barnes & Noble's 5 percent. Apple had a 62 percent share of the tablet market for the whole of 2011. (See also "Kindle Fire vs. Nook Tablet: Which Should You Buy?")
But IHS expects Apple to hit back at its competitors with the launch of a next-generation iPad. IHS said this would happen in the second quarter of 2012 and that it believes the device will have a 2048 by 1024 resolution and the Siri personal assistant built in.
"Apple is set to reclaim its tablet market share when it commences volume shipments of the next version of the iPad, which is expected in the second quarter of this year. As with previous iPad releases, Apple is anticipated to stage a staggered rollout, introducing the new product in different countries around the globe as supply improves," IHS says in its report.