After January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas we were reminded, repeatedly, that 2011 would be the Year of the Tablet. While some have already begun to complain of tablet fatigue, others figured the game was already over.
In November 2010, Boston based research firm Strategy Analytics estimated that Apple owned 95% of the tablet market. And with a thinner, lighter iPad 2 already in production some observers felt that Apple’s first mover advantage; the iconic company will have sold approximately 17 million iPads before The Playbook hits the market, was just too large. As BusinessWeek recently reported, Credit Agricole analyst Steven Fox, in a December note to his clients, called the iPad the “early incumbent” and said “RIM would need to one-up in its features to make inroads.”
A 95 per cent market share doesn’t make for much of a battle, but there is increasing evidence that 2011’s Tablet Wars may yet be a fair fight. Though Research in Motion hasn’t confirmed it, reports are surfacing that the Waterloo, ON based company is working on software that will allow users to access Google’s Android Market. With 130,000 apps, the Google market is more than six times as large as BlackBerry’s App World.
This would address what many perceive to be a major weakness for the Playbook, which nonetheless received rave reviews at CES for features such as its powerful QNX Neutrino operating system,
video conferencing abilities, ability to handle Flash content and ability to tether to an existing BlackBerry handset.
In the meantime, Android based tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy and the Motorola Xoom, have already begun to chip away at Apple’s dominance. Updating their research, Strategy Analytics said Android captured 22% of global tablet shipments in Q4 2010, reducing Apple’s global market share to 75%.
The Playbook is rumored to be launched in late April, just before the BlackBerry World Conference begins in Orlando on May 3rd. While internet based hoaxes and outright subterfuge are always part of the fun of a launch in this space -remember the BlackPad rumours? a “leaked” screenshot of a purported Office Depot catalogue making the rounds suggests a $499 price tag for a 16G version of the device. Apple meanwhile, is rumored to be considering a price hike for the iPad 2, which will likely hit the market before the end of March.