iPad market share weakens as Android tablets gain popularity

Just two weeks ago, Apple’s COO referred to the iPad’s Android competition as a “bizarre product” and “vapor” while gloating about his company’s success during a quarterly earnings call. Cooks assessment of the competition may have been a bit premature, however, as fourth quarter market reports have revealed that Android has stolen a “significant” market share from its popular Apple rival.

A newly-released market research report indicates that sales of Google’s Android tablets soared during Q4 2010, to give the company its first double-digit share of the tablet market.

iPad market share weakens as Android tablets gain popularity

“In the fourth quarter, Apple’s tablet captured 75.3 percent of worldwide market share, easily besting Android-based devices’ 21.6 percent share, according to market-research firm Strategy Analytics. However, those figures differ vastly from the third quarter when Apple had 95.5 percent share and Android had just 2.3 percent,” Cnet News reports. “For 2010 overall, iPad’s held 84.1 percent of the market, while Android devices accounted for 13.1 percent.”

And keep in mind, that Android’s tablet success in late 2010 was accomplished with a mobile phone operating system that even Google admitted was not that great for tablets. That is about to change as the very first Android 3.0, code name “Honeycomb”, Motorola Xoom tablet PC arrives later this week, with several more models on the way in the coming months. Motorola alone is expected to ship as many as 1 million units in the first quarter of 2011.

“Honeycomb has been designed with larger screens in mind, including a retooled, tablet-friendly virtual keyboard and a brand-new system bar along the bottom of the screen,” according to a report from eWeek. ”Google has also tinkered with the Web browser, which now offers tabbed browsing for multiple Web windows, and support for 3D graphics.”

Google has already overtaken the mobile phone market, as 32.9 million worldwide shipments during the fourth quarter of 2010 made Android the best-selling smartphone operating system. Apple’s iPhones ranked a distant 3rd, with a 16 percent market share compared to Android’s 32.5percent.

Of course the playing field will change again once Apple releases the iPad 2 with a new iOS 4.3 sometime later this year. The inclusion of front and rear-facing cameras, along with more social networking features could make the next-generation iPad a tough competitor.

I am really looking forward to see what both companies have in store for consumers this year. Right now, both Android and iOS are showing great potential for future tablet offerings and I believe it is anyone’s game at this point.