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Small tablets to turn the tide in favour of Android in the $64 billion tablet market?

ABI Research suggests that Samsung is best placed to close the gap on Apple this year, which would further increase Android's share of the tablet market.
April 15, 2013
vader 8 inch tablet 640px

I have a confession to make, when I first heard about tablets I was pretty skeptical. I couldn’t ever really see myself ditching my laptop for a smaller, less powerful tablet, but as it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. I now much prefer my tablet for web surfing and it suits all my basic computing needs, and according to the latest forecasts from ABI research I’m just one of the millions of happy consumers making up the increasingly large tablet market.

According to its 2013 forecast, ABI Research expects that approximately 150 million tablets will ship across the world this year, which puts the market’s potential revenue at an estimated $64 billion. That’s an impressive increase of 28% compared with the value of the tablet market in 2012.

ABI Research also released some interesting statistics about the market share of the various tablet operating systems. It noted that in 2012 60% of tablet shipments used Apple’s iOS, whilst 37% were based on Android, and the remaining measly 3% share consisted of Windows operating systems, BlackBerry Tablet OS, and other “unidentified” operating systems.

Ok, so 37% isn’t a super impressive showing for Android, but year on year Android is closing the gap. According to ABI mobile devices senior practice director Jeff Orr:

“The tide is definitely turning toward Android-based tablets, though Apple will not slouch as it feels the competition approaching,”

I’d say that’s a pretty fair assessment of the tablet market based on the various figures we saw released after the end of 2012, but what about the future of the tablet market?

Consumer appetite for smaller tablets?

This is probably the most intriguing point made in the press release — ABI Research suggests that a trend towards smaller, cheaper tablets could be the next key battleground for Android and Apple. ABI expects that now that production can keep up with demand for the iPad Mini, in the first quarter of 2013 will show a switch in market demand for smaller Apple tablets.

Samsung is perhaps best placed to capitalize on this market shift, thanks to its already popular line-up of tablets and larger smartphones like the Galaxy Note 2. This also plays in quite nicely with the information we’ve heard lately about larger smartphones and 8-inch tablets heading to market at some point this year. Could we be heading for a 5 to 9 inch sweet spot for handheld computing?

But ABI also noted that lack of “fast followers” (competitors) in the Android market could lead to stifled innovation, which would see Apple easily retain its crown. In other words, other Android based manufacturers are going to have to set-up and drive competition in order to close the gap with Apple.

It’s going to be an interesting year for Android and for tablets. Android looks set to secure a larger market share than ever before, but I can’t help but wonder exactly which devices are going to be best sellers this year?