Tablets Continue to Defy Gravity

Carl Weinschenk

Those waiting for the tablet craze to die down and for Apple’s dominance to fade have more waiting to do. But the category is maturing — and will present significant challenges to the folks in Cupertino.

ABI Research released numbers for the second quarter, and they are impressive. The second paragraph of this Network World story on the research sums it up:

For the quarter, shipments were up 36% compared to the previous period, and up 77% over the same quarter last year. Apple claimed almost 69% percent, more than two-thirds, of the units shipped. By comparison, Android tablets from Samsung were up, but only by 8%, and Asus' Android tablets were up just 4% for the quarter.

It’s long been established that tablets are here to stay. Perhaps the most stunning number is that despite the seeming growth in competition, just about seven out of every 10 devices sold were iPads.

There is a lot of uncertainty over the nature of the growth. The biggest wildcards seem to be the impact of Windows 8 and how vendors will tweak designs to take advantage of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend.

Windows 8 tablets are expected this month. PC World uses ABI research to suggest that tablets using the new Microsoft operating system could see substantial growth next year. Of course, some of that growth will be from the overall growth of the category. But it also is fair to say that at least some of that growth, if it does occur, will at the expense of Apple.

Tablets and smartphones are the hardware and software manifestations of the BYOD trend. Indeed, to a great degree, the two are inseparable. That’s good for both categories, of course.

Mashable offers an anecdotal look at how tablets are expanding business technology, not simply serving as slightly more functional replacements for what existed before. The stimulating nature of such crossover appeal may be a reason that the tablet category seems to be defying gravity — and why much of the energy is coming from Apple, which still sets the standard for consumer devices.

SAP’s Eric Lai, writing at Forbes, has an interesting take on the future. The next generation of tablets, he suggests, will challenge the iPad in the enterprise because they will be built with IT in mind. Apple and its competitors will create corporate-friendly tablets as a way to grow both in the consumer and enterprise sectors. At the end of the day, Lai writes, IT departments will have to support BYOD employees running tablets and iPhones using Android, iOS and Windows 8.

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