Wednesday, November 03, 2010

How Big is the Tablet Market?

It’s November and that means we are getting closer to the end of the year, the time when companies scramble to follow through on promises, make new promises, and ensure that their devices are in the public conscious, even if they won’t be available before the holidays.

While a recent Bloomberg story cites data from Strategy Analytics showing that Apple now has a 95% stranglehold on the tablet market, there are dozens of companies scrambling to get in on it. Obviously, very few manufacturers had a product on the market when Apple released the iPad last April, so numbers like that are not surprising.

So the big question, for me at least, is where’s the cap? How much of a market really is there for products in the tablet space? Obviously Apple has a good head start, but smart companies with new products should be able to make headway if they can capture a solid chunk of market attention.

Take the Samsung Galaxy tab, which is making the rounds right now on many of the major tablet review sites. It’s finally hitting the market this month and has edged out the iPad in a number of areas, though no one is sure if it will have the kind of splash many people were hoping for. It remains to be seen how the device is marketed as to whether it will have an impact. (You can read reviews of the Galaxy Tab on Engadget, jkkmobile, Slashgear).

Then there are the newcomers. Every couple days it seems like another company announces their entry into the tablet market. In fact, I’ve mentioned at least a half dozen in the last month alone. Since my last blog post, Michael Dell announced more Dell tablets on the way next year, ViewSonic (the monitor producer) announced their ViewPad offering with a release date for Q1 of its 7 inch and 10 inch offerings (both with Dual Boot Windows 7/Android like the TegaV2), and Creative’s announcement of the Ziio tablet – being released in Europe very soon.

Each device has its merits (and downsides), but one really does begin to wonder just how many devices the market can support. No one seems able to agree on how big the tablet market will be over the next 2-5 years with some analysts seeing moderate growth and others seeing exponential growth on par with PCs in the mid-1990s.

One thing is for sure though – not every company is going to come out of this on top. Many manufacturers will see great success with only a fraction of the sales Apple records, but others will not be able to support adding a new wing to their tech offerings if they can’t really break into this market.

Very soon we will see which features, options, and aesthetics work best in the market, and as a result ,which devices thrive. 

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