The Apple iPad is the de facto standard tablet computer on the market and enjoys the highest rate of visibility in most countries. A recent study determined the iPad enjoys the most success in the USA, where dedicated Apple stores total in number to 238. In Europe, there are only 52 stores to buy the tablet. Android based tablets have the most chance of success in the European and Asian markets where the visibility rate for iPad based tablets is far lower than in North America.
Android based tablets have a hard time competing against Apple because of the higher costs involved to provide a better hardware based alternative. The end user often pays much more than the iPad in other to get a solid offering. Look at the T-Mobile G-Slate which retails for around $799, if you compare it to the iPad, it is a no-brainer for a casual customer. Apple has sold over 30 million iPads in the full year since it was released and its entry level model is only $500.00.
Forrester research has compiled a report with some very interesting facts for the future of tablet sales. The iPad will account for 80 percent of all tablet sales in North America, while Europe will rise to 70%. Worldwide sales will increase dramatically with back to school sales and the holidays to over 48 million iPads sold in 2011.
Tablet competitors such as Blackberry, Acer, Asus, Dell, Samsung, Motorola, and HP all have a presence in Europe and Asia and that will be the deciding battleground to see if there is even a market for a non-iPad alternative.
Dell, based on the lackluster sales of the 5 and 7 inch Streak tablet/phone hybrid, has forgone the North American market to instead focus on China, where competition is weaker and marketing budgets have more pull. Currently in China, Dell falls just behind Lenovo in the tablet market and both have their products in over 10,000 retail outlets.
Forrester Research cited the software based ecosystem as the main reason why Apple leads the back in most Western Markets. Android and other operating systems must offer more developer incentives and tailor their content in a cleaner manner. If you look at the Google Android Market with any of the new Honeycomb based devices, you will mostly just find applications tailored towards Android phones. There is not even a option in the marketplace to even look for apps that were optimized or created especially for Honeycomb based devices. You are also hard-pressed to find content specifically designed with tablets in mind. Whereas the Apple system makes a clean distinction between phone and tablet applications.
One of the reasons why AAA game companies don’t even publish on Android is because of the varying screen sizes on the tablets. When you design for the iPad or iPad 2 you have one screen size to work with and most future Apple tablets will be the same. Android tablets on the other hand range from 5 to 11 inches and all games or apps have to be customized to display correctly on each one. If you were a huge company who would you develop for? One screen size or tons?
The ecosystem for apps and games remains a deciding factor in North America where tablet competition and visibility is high. Europe and Asia are two different matters completely and remain the battleground for the success of tablets.