iPad Sales Slipping Behind Android?

By | Nov 14, 2012

Apple's iPad is still the leading tablet device. But iPad sales have been slipping, relative to Android. And at least one analyst says that Google's operating system could become the tablet leader early next year. For IT managers at midsize firms, this trend has both an upside and a downside.

The downside is simple: Android tablets are here to stay, but the iPad certainly isn't going away either. This means that IT will need to support tablets using both operating systems. This applies both to reaching customers and to bring-your-own-device (BYOD) within the enterprise.

The upside is that Android offers flexibility that Apple and iOS do not. In some ways Android is all too flexible, but because it is open-source it can be tweaked to meet IT needs in a way that iOS (and indeed Microsoft Windows) cannot.

Turning the Tablets

iPad sales remain robust. But as Lance Whitney reports at CNET, its dominance is slipping. In the last two years the iPad's share of the tablet market has fallen from 87 percent to 50.4 percent. And analyst Shameer Singh of Finvista Advisors says that Android is poised to take the lead in the first half of 2013.

Android tablet sales growth, Singh notes, outpaced iPad growth in six of the last eight quarters. And Apple suffered a bit of a self-inflicted blow last quarter: Consumers held off on buying as they awaited the debut of the iPad mini. But Singh is certainly not expecting the iPad market to dry up and blow away.

On the other hand, the analyst is not sanguine about the prospects for Windows RT or Windows 8 tablets. Singh argues that they will have a "negligible impact" on the overall tablet market.

Evolving Ecosystems

The Windows tablet prediction, if events bear it out, will likely be a disappointment to the IT community at midsize firms. Windows, after all, is well established in the enterprise and has a business orientation that is lacking in both iOS and Android. If Windows tablets fail to establish themselves, IT will be stuck with the other options, neither of which is ideal.

And both iOS and Android will surely need to be supported. The iPad is strongly positioned in the up-market segment, including the C-suite. And supporting two mobile operating systems will mean hassles and general inconvenience for IT.

But Android's vigor is still good news for IT at midsize firms. Neither Google nor any other firm has the iron grip on the Android ecosystem that Apple has on the iOS ecosystem. And the fact that Android is open-source offers maximum flexibility to robust IT departments--if they are willing to rise to the challenge.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.