The Amazon Kindle Fire is boosting overall Android tablet sales. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired
Cheap Android tablets, namely from Amazon, could boost Android tablet sales numbers past the current dominating force known as the iPad, according to research firm IDC.
IDC issued its quarterly tablet and e-reader tracker numbers on Wednesday, and it reveals some interesting findings. For Q4 2011, the Kindle Fire made up 16.8 percent of tablet shipments (that’s 4.7 million units), while Apple gobbled up 54.7 percent of shipments, or 15.4 million units. Strong demand for the new iPad has pushed up estimates of tablet sales this year to over 106 million units, but devices such as the Kindle Fire could outnumber Apple’s tablet numbers by 2016.
“What was interesting about Amazon’s entry into the tablet market was not only did they ship a lot of units at a very aggressive price, but they actually helped broaden the market in general,” IDC research director Tom Mainelli told Wired. “It gave people an opportunity to jump into the market at a price they’re more comfortable paying. I also think when they saw Amazon was selling $200 tablets, it made them look around and see what other options were.”
Although consumers may be starting to look at non-Apple tablet options, “pure play Android” manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung and Motorola — as Mainelli calls them — are going to have a tough time.
Amazon is able to sell its 7-inch tablet essentially at cost because of its revenue model, which allows the company to make its money on content purchased through Amazon services on the device. Apple, on the other hand, offers itself as premium hardware bolstered by its own software ecosystem of iTunes, iCloud and the like. The Samsungs and Motorolas of the world are trying to follow Apple’s model, but instead of using their own software platform from which they can get extra revenue, they’re relying on Google’s.
With Amazon dominating the $200 tablet space, and Apple at both the high end and mid-range with its $400 reduced price iPad 2, traditional Android players are going to have a tough time finding a niche they can take advantage of. But as with the smartphone market, the sheer number of Android tablets out there, combined with Amazon’s capture of the low-end market, could very well mean Android will eventually win the tablet numbers game.