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Reviewing Apple’s Increased Mobile Device Market Share

Since the launch of both the WiFi-only and 3G models of the iPad, Apple has sold about 2M units in less than 2 months, and they’re sold out at many of their Apple retail stores – proving that there is a market for tablet devices and thus a need for more apps. But will these sales levels be sustained past the current hype? Retrevo did a Pulse Report study [via Mashable] of over 1,000 respondents about consumer attitudes towards tablet computers and e-readers and over 50% said they’re not interested in making such a purchase. Of non-iPad owners surveyed, over half said that they don’t need one.

Let’s look at some other stats. At an average of 1M units/month, they can easily top 8M units this year, beating out estimates of 5-7M units for 2010. The overall market for web-enabled tablet computing devices is estimated to hit over $8B by 2015, despite Retrevo’s study. Such contradictions often exist, and sometimes it’s a matter of creating the need or at least the desire. Apple managed it with iPods — I remember being part of a group of people that held out. I in fact never bought an iPod but both won a Shuffle and was given an iPod as a gift. The latter ceased to function after a year of heavy use; I’d fallen in love with it. Can Apple repeat their iPod success and make people fall in love with iPads, even when they don’t need them? (I believe so.)

Apple is already leading Android with  mobile devices in general. According to AdMob (which Google just purchased), iPhone OS-based devices are leading Android OS-based devices in the U.S. by more than a 2 to 1 ratio. Worldwide, the ratio is 3.5 to 1 in favor of iPhone OS. (With market advantages like this, is it any wonder that Apple stock price predictions for 2010 — made in Dec 2009 – Jan 2010 — suggest a $250-300 range?)

Whether Apple is maintaining any lead in the tablet market is hard to say without actually figures, given that tablet computer have existed for a while. Where Apple is lagging is with iPad-specific apps compared to iPhone-specific apps. Developers had to work with only a software simulator for the first round of apps accepted by Apple for the Apr 3, 2010, launch of the iPad. That probably hindered development significantly, and my own observation is that many such iPad-specific apps crash on occasion.

So if Apple can reboot the tablet computer market and create a demand, there’ll be room for loads more iPad-specific apps and maybe even 3rd-party peripheral devices. Whether or not that means the possibility of Windows-based tools such as Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 or Silverlight Web application plug-in for developing iPad/ iPhone apps remains to be seen. For now it seems it’s not the case, even with suggestions for Apple to be more open.

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