iPad share of tablet market jumps as Kindle Fire slumps

Pure-play Android tablets may have tough time competing on price against Apple and Amazon, says IDC

Apple's iPad reclaimed a larger share of the global tablet market last month, in part because of a more-serious-than-expected slump in sales of the hot Kindle Fire in the first quarter, IDC analysts said today.

The iPad's share of the tablet business shot up to 68% in the first quarter of 2012, climbing more than 13 percentage points from 2011's fourth-quarter share of 54.7%, said IDC's Bob O'Donnell, program vice president for clients and displays.

At the same time, Amazon's share plummeted from about 17% in the fourth quarter of last year to just 4% in this year's opening quarter.

O'Donnell attributed the spike in Apple's share and the drop in Amazon's to several factors, including the U.S.-only sales of the Fire -- which tightly tied it to the U.S. holidays -- and the iPad's international reach, including in China, where the tablet was a hot ticket in that country's January holiday gift-giving spree.

"We expected to see a significant drop in Amazon Fire [in the first quarter]," O'Donnell said in an interview Thursday. "But honestly, the drop was a little bit more than we expected."

The dramatic shifts in share show that tablets remain a seasonal product, said O'Donnell. That includes the iPad, which saw its sales fall off -- even with the Chinese New Year at its disposal -- some 3.6 million units in the first quarter compared to the previous three-month period.

But IDC also argued that the iPad has legs the rival tablets do not. "Apple's move to position the iPad as an all-purpose tablet, instead of just a content consumption device, is resonating with consumers as well as educational and commercial buyers," Tom Mainelli, IDC's research director for mobile connected devices, said in a statement earlier today.

According to Mainelli -- and O'Donnell echoed his colleague -- Apple's positioning of the iPad as more than a consumer product, one appropriate and salable to major markets like education and enterprise, sets it apart from the competition.

Apple has regularly beaten that drum. Last month, Apple's chief financial officer touted a 10,000-iPad deal with the San Diego School District, and said the district planned to buy another 15,000 iPads in the second quarter.

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