Apple's iPad owns the tablet market, according to a new study of Internet traffic in the U.S., but that doesn't mean the competition is going away.
The 9.7-inch iOS device accounts for 97 percent of all tablet device Internet traffic in the U.S. and 89 percent of tablet traffic globally. It also claims nearly 22 percent of all non-PC Internet traffic in the U.S. Tablets running Google's Android OS, by comparison, make up just 2 percent of U.S. online tablet usage and 0.6 percent of non-PC traffic, metrics firm comScore says.
Despite Apple's dominance, a few challenges may emerge in the coming months that could diminish the iPad's popularity.
Amazon is rumored to be coming out with its own Android-based tablet, and Amazon is the only other company that could challenge Apple's content ecosystem for iOS devices. Amazon has an online music store, a new online music storage and playback service, a film rental and purchase store, e-books and the company recently launched its Appstore for Android.
Hewlett-Packard's WebOS-based TouchPad rumored to hit stores in July may also be a good competitor to the iPad.
A dark horse competitor to the iPad might be tablets running Microsoft Windows 8. Instead of putting its Windows Phone 7 OS on a tablet, Microsoft says the forthcoming refresh of Windows is being designed with touch devices in mind. Windows 8's interface will look similar to Windows Phone 7's well-received Metro UI. Windows 8 will also be designed to work on ARM-based processors--the most popular chip used for mobile devices. But it's still early days for Windows 8 and it will be a long time before we'll be able to see how well the new OS performs on a tablet.
While comScore's study may not be surprising to those who follow tech news, the report has to be deflating for Apple's existing tablet competitors such as the BlackBerry Playbook, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Asus Eee Pad, Dell Streak and T-Mobile's G-Slate.
Ever since Apple introduced the iPad more than 18 months ago, computer makers have been racing to come up with a response to Apple's tablet. But as Technologizer's Harry McCracken recently pointed out, Apple's competitors haven't been able to answer one fundamental question, "Why should somebody buy this [tablet] instead of an iPad?"
Unlike its competitors, Apple pushes out regular OS updates for its devices designed to improve and extend the functionality of the iPad. And unlike Google's Android, Apple doesn't have to contend with carriers and manufacturers preventing the updates from reaching users. Apple's iTunes catalog of apps, music, movies, television episodes, and e-books also keeps people coming back for more.
For now, Apple owns the tablet world thanks to the iPad and that is unlikely to change before the end of the year.