A new Gartner report published today notes that worldwide sales of tablets reached 195.4 million units in 2013, a 68 percent increase over 2012. Gartner notes that sales of iOS tablets grew in the fourth quarter of 2013 keeping Apple's iPad the number one selling tablet. On the low-end of the market, where Apple doesn't sell into, the Android camp picked up more steam.
Gartner's report noted that "From a vendor perspective, Apple's strong fourth quarter helped it to maintain the top position in the market in 2013 (see Table 2). Samsung, ranked No. 2, exhibited the highest growth of the worldwide tablet vendors. Samsung sells mostly to the lower end of the tablet market with cheaper products, but that gave them a way to sustain their number two position with a 336 percent gain in 2013." Whether Samsung's numbers represent shipments or sales wasn't clarified by Gartner
The report further noted that "As the Android tablet market becomes highly commoditized, in 2014, it will be critical for vendors to focus on device experience and meaningful technology and ecosystem value — beyond just hardware and cost — to ensure brand loyalty and improved margins."
In other words, Android OEM's will have to copy Apple even more if they want to be relevant going forward as Apple's iPhone and iPad is all about the "experience" and having the best music and app store on the planet.
Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner noted in the report that "Apple's tablets remain strong in the higher end of the market and Apple's approach will continue to force vendors to compete with full ecosystem offerings, even in the smaller-screen market as the iPad mini sees a greater share."
Gartner Sees Notebook-Tablet Hybrids Coming on Strong in 2014
Gartner does not track the tablet market in isolation from other device categories. Tablets are a part of the wider ultramobile market that also includes hybrids and clamshells.
Worldwide sales of ultramobiles to end users reached 216 million units in 2013, an increase of 68 percent on 2012. The tablet remained the most popular device, accounting for 90 percent of overall sales of ultramobiles in 2013 — followed by the clamshell and the hybrid, with 8 percent and 2 percent of sales, respectively.
"Although there were few models available last year, the hybrid form factor was the fastest growing category in 2013. Hybrid ultramobiles attracted users' attention because the keyboard offers better use of productivity applications and benefits from a tablet form factor," said Ms. Cozza.
Gartner expects replacement buyers to start upgrading to hybrid ultramobiles that will be introduced into the market from 2014, satisfying users who no longer want to deal with owning multiple devices or who want to keep up with the latest computing trend. "There is an opportunity here for hybrid ultramobiles to marry the functionality of a PC and a tablet, and they will also prove to be an attractive alternative replacement product among businesses," said Ms. Cozza.
Apple has a number of patent pending notebook-tablet inventions on record, the most notable being one that came to light in April 2013 as noted below. Whether Apple will ever pull the trigger on such a hybrid will be in part determined by whether the hybrid sector continues to gain market traction as it did last year. It's also a debatable as to what operating system(s) Apple would use for such a device if they ever release it.
What Really Matters
The Gartner report also noted that Android is the number one operating system by volume. Of course that only matters to statisticians and the like. The fact that Apple is the number one vendor of tablets, matters. The fact that web traffic usage for the iPad in the US and Canada is at 78.2%, matters. The fact that the iPhone is number one in America, matters. And the fact that the Apple brand is the most valuable in the market and the most admired seven year running, matters.
It matters because it goes to show you that there are still real consumers in the market who care about quality products that they can buy from a trusted brand that offers them the best retail experience in the world. It matters because consumers know that they could be trained to use the products that they just purchased so that they could be more productive with their devices. Wow, what a mind blowing concept that Apple's competitors still don't get.
Statistics on the other hand, specifically in respect to the single focus of "volume" of operating system penetration in the world, is a real yawner. That really only matters to librarian and analyst types that don't get out of the office very much (ha!).
Today, Gartner chalks up another win for Apple's iPad.