Shipments of tablets running Google Inc’s Android will overtake the iPad this year for the first time, research house International Data Corp (IDC) predicted on Tuesday, as Apple Inc cedes more mobile market share to hard-charging rivals around the globe.
A growing variety of smaller and cheaper Android tablets from Google to Amazon.com Inc will catch on this year with more consumers and chip away at Apple’s dominance since the first iPad launched in 2010, IDC said.
Shipments of iPads and iPhones are expected to keep growing at enviable rates, but archrival Samsung Electronics Co and others have hurt Apple with a combination of savvy marketing, greater variety and rapid technology adoption.
Samsung is scheduled to launch the fourth generation of its flagship Galaxy, the smartphone that helped the South Korean giant knock the iPhone off its top ranking for part of last year.
A growing perception that the company cofounded by Steve Jobs may be losing its competitive edge has weighed on its shares, which have lost more than a third of their value since hitting a high in September.
In the latest criticism from Wall Street, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek on Tuesday compared Apple to Blackberry, saying the iPhone is now on the defensive against Samsung’s devices.
“Historically when handset makers fall out of favor (e.g., the Razr, Blackberry, HTC) they fall faster/further than expected,” Misek wrote in a note to clients.
Now, IDC says Apple may begin losing some its lead on tablets as well, though it remains the top seller among manufacturers.
IDC said iPad shipments are expected to account for 46 percent of the tablet market this year, down from 51 percent last year. Devices running Android are expected to grow their market share to 49 percent this year from 42 percent last year, it said.
Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle, which uses its own customization of Android, made major inroads with consumers last year. In November, Apple launched its own foray into smaller-sized tablets with the iPad Mini.
“One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below 8 inches in screen size. And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond,” IDC said in a press release.
Last month, Hewlett-Packard Co announced the launch of the Slate 7 tablet powered by Android, a centerpiece of the company’s effort to expand from the shrinking personal market into mobile.
IDC also raised its this year’s tablet shipment forecast to 190.9 million units, up from its previous forecast of 172.4 million units.
Last year, global tablet shipments grew to 128.3 million units, up from 72 million in 2011, the research house said.
IDC said tablets running Microsoft’s Windows 8 platform would grow their market share from 1 percent last year to 7.4 percent in 2017.
Tablets running the Windows RT operating system, which is not compatible with older software that runs on Windows, will see their market share stay below 3 percent through 2017, IDC said.
“Consumers aren’t buying Windows RT’s value proposition, and long term we think Microsoft and its partners would be better served by focusing their attention on improving Windows 8,” IDC said.