iPad will reign supreme through 2013
Greater China -- the term Apple uses to describe the People's Republic, Hong Kong and Taiwan -- generated 13% of Apple's total revenues last quarter.
Alexander mentioned educational sales of the iPad several times as a factor in the tablet's strong sales. "There's a huge interest in tablets in education, and the favorite by far is the iPad," she said.
Apple has historically been a major player in the educational market, and has leveraged that to push the iPad into schools, both K-12 and college. "They laid this groundwork for years," Alexander said.
But the iPad is not invulnerable. At some point -- specifically, 2014 -- the iPad will be surpassed by rival tablets, according to iSuppli.
Looking that far into the future is tricky, Alexander acknowledged, because of unknowns, including how Microsoft's Windows 8 -- and its successor -- will do on tablets.
"Lower price points will play a part," she said, referring to expectations that other tablet makers, particularly those that rely on Google's Android operating system, will eventually be able to beat the iPad on price. "But there's the 'market diversity' factor too, when a whole lot of competitors are in the market. Some will have success, some won't, but it will expand the market."
The rise of Android-based smartphones, which in toto now outsell the iPhone, is "the perfect parallel" to how iSuppli sees the tablet market developing, said Alexander.
"And Apple's patent litigation is serving to slow or complicate competitors' entry into some key regional markets," Alexander observed. "With Apple lapping its competitors, many of whom are still struggling to get out of the starting gate, this remains a one-horse race."
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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