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Apple's iPad market share drops 14pc in Q3: report

The iPad?s share of tablet shipments sank to its lowest level ever during the third quarter as Android tablets continued to gain, according to new data from ABI Research.

With a 55 percent share of unit shipments, the iPad still beat all other tablets on the market even though its share shrank 14 percent. Android tablets accounted for 44 percent of tablet shipments during the same period.

?I was a bit surprised that Apple was so low considering the potential buying that could occur for schools, which is one of its more important segments,? said Jeff Orr, senior practice director for mobile devices at ABI Research, Oyster Bay, NY.

?The rest of the market did not have that sluggish a period,? he said. ?There were definitely a lot of Android sales in that period.?

Shifting down market
Two years ago, Apple?s share of the tablet market was closer to 90 percent.

However, that number was expected to drop as more vendors entered the space.

Another possible explanation for iPad?s declining market share during the third quarter is that consumers believed a smaller iPad was coming even though it had not been officially announced. As a result, some consumers may have held off purchasing an iPad in anticipation of the new device.

Apple?s introduction of a smaller, lower-cost iPad mini is an acknowledgement of the gains made by the range of seven-inch Android tablets, per ABI Research. However, rather than stealing share from Android, ABI Research believes the iPad mini has caused demand for the standard iPad to shift down-market.

Additionally, the third quarter is traditionally a slower period for tablet sales.

The Android tablet ecosystem is expected to continue to grow as new manufacturers, better devices and more developers enter the market.

?The gap between the iPad performance and the performance of competing tablets is narrowing,? said Rhoda Alexander, senior manager of tablet and monitor research at IHS/iSuppli, Santa Clara, CA .

?When you are looking at tablets, you are looking at more than just a piece of hardware,? she said. ?You are looking how the combination of hardware, software and the overall ecosystem fits together ? Android is getting better at that, which is helping.

?You also have less expensive competitors coming in with increasingly well-designed product and that is going to make it a more interesting market,? she said.

A starring role
While it is clear that Apple?s share of total tablet shipments has declined, the iPad?s role in the tablet market continues to be significant.

Recent Yankee Group data shows that, when considering a pool of all consumers, the iPad?s share rose to 15 percent by the end of November, up from 2 percent in February. In comparison, none of the other tablet manufacturers? share broke 3 percent in November.

?Which platform reaches the most consumers ? it is a no brainer,? said Carl Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at Yankee Group, Boston . ?There is no significant competition.

?The bottom line is that the drop in market share is not important,? he said. ?Apple is still making more money and out shipping every other manufacturer.

?One out of every two tablets sold is an iPad ? that is still huge. And they make money doing it, which is not the case for Google or Amazon.?

Mr. Howe expects the iPad?s market share to settle out between 40 and 50 percent, with some variation by season.

Greater complexity
The maturation of the tablet market reflected in the third quarter tablet shipment numbers could present some challenges for marketers.

?Because it is a more complex market and reaching more demographics, it is going to be increasingly difficult for the mobile marketer,? ABI Research?s Mr. Orr said.

?By operating system there is going to be different needs as well as a lot more cultures that are going to have different receptivity to messaging,? he said.

?This could lead to a significant challenge for marketers who want a one-size fits all strategy to address this audience.?

Initial results have pointed to the important role that the iPad is playing this holiday season in driving shopping activity and sales for consumers. However, as other tablets gain share, they, too, are likely to play an important role here.

?When tablets have been used by consumers for shopping, I am not seeing any difference by brand,? Mr. Orr said. ?In general, across all operating systems and brands, we are seeing more money being spent via tablets than on the smartphone.

The upshot is that Apple?s share of the tablet market is shrinking as expected as the market matures and competition grows.

However, the iPad is still likely to continue to dominate in this category for some time.

?There is a lot of product out there and consumers are going to be making choices based on many factors, including price,? IHS/iSuppli?s Ms. Alexander said.

?Will Apple continue to dominate at the level that they have?,? she said. ?No, we are seeing their share slipping over time but still being number one.

?Apple is still going to remain a very dominant player in the market because of their international reach and because of their ability to innovate.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York