Since April 2010 when Apple released its first iPad, the tech giant from Cupertino has dominated, no wait… literally defined the tablet computer space. Since that fine spring day in 2010 however, nearly 220 other tablet computers have flooded into the tablet market. What Apple brought to the tablet was a high end, large screen tablet that consumers instantly fell in love with. This has a lot to do with Apple’s brand and loyal fan base. But it also has to do with the high end performance, and highly mobile functionality of the iPad.
The problem that a lot consumers have with the iPad is that 1) it’s too darn expensive, with the newest iPad 3 model starting at just over $500 – and that’s for the 16GB, WiFi only model, and 2) some people actually find the 9.7 inch tablet to be too big to accommodate “ease and true mobility”.
Enter the Sub $400, Sub 9 inch tablet market
Now don’t get me wrong here. There’s obviously no other tablet on the market that comes close to the success that Apple is having with the iPad. The newest iPad 3, on its weekend debut, sold over 3.1 million units. It took nearly three months for the Kindle Fire, the current best selling Android tablet, to reach that level of sales.
But still, the tablet market is brand new and the growth rate of the low end, small form factor tablet market is starting to take form.
It has been predicted that the low end (sub $400) and smaller form factor (sub 9 inch) tablet computer will have a 60% market share in the tablet computer space by 2016, this according to ABI Research. That’s a pretty aggressive prediction. And if it comes to be true, it means we are truly in the infancy of what will become a global tablet phenomena.
According to Jeff Orr, group director, consumer research, “The majority of new entrant media tablet models have been in the sub-$400 segment that focuses on growth markets like India and China. The strong wave of growth in this segment over the next few years is expected to be driven by the adoption in emerging markets.”
We’ve seen a great example of the success that the low end, small form factor tablet can have with Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire sells for only $199 and comes with a 7 inch touch screen display. When Amazon released the Kindle Fire in Q3 2011, they ended up selling approximately 5 million units before the end of the year. A respectable number to be sure, and sign of things to come in the low end, small form factor space. And there’s now rumors out that the Kindle Fire 2 is already in the works.
Although it may be true that by 2016 the sub $400, small form factor tablet computer will be dominating the tablet computer space, what hasn’t yet been talked about is who – what manufacturers – will be leading the race. I’ve said it before, that in order for a tablet to even have a chance at competing with Apple’s iPad, the manufacturer has to have a strong content network in place. Because ultimately, nobody can compete against the iPad on specs alone. And since you can’t compete with the iPad on specs, it has to be done with content.
Looking at the tablet market through the lens of “content”, there are (right now anyway) very few competitors who are ready to step up. Amazon is about the only one I see able to compete against Apple on the content front.
What do you think? Are smaller form factor, lower end tablets going to eventually dominate the tablet market?