We can deride the quality and culture of Android tablets, but the once ginormous lead Apple’s iPad had is shrinking amid the rise of tweener tablets.

In a bit of a two-edge sword, a new study finds 25 percent of Americans own a tablet, with Apple’s device claiming just over half of the US tablet market. A year ago, more than 8 out of 10 tablets purchased bore the Apple logo…

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the iPad has 52 percent of the domestic tablet market while Android devices comprise 48 percent. In 2011, Android-based tablets held just 15 percent of the American market.

The study’s 48 percent figure could be low, as it was conducted before Google’s $99 Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD could be purchased.

Apple likely has also noticed Android’s encroachment on the iPad’s once secure territory. What else would explain CEO Tim Cook’s decision to reverse Steve Jobs’ public dismissal of talk of a smaller tablet?

Apple is expected to soon announce just that – a tablet that could be the little brother to the current 9.7-inch iPad. One unknown is whether the iPad Mini (or whatever its final name) will also carry a smaller price tag.

We constantly fight the urge to throw in with the Apple ‘fan boy’ culture where the Cupertino, California company can do no wrong and product releases are cloaked in near religious zealotry. However, the iPad has experienced massive success and had the tablet stage to itself for more than two and a half years now.

No matter how well designed, one brand cannot stand alone forever.

The Android tablets’ growing marketshare is riding two waves. First, as the Pew study illustrated, the tablet market is growing beyond the consumers who love to live on the bleeding-edge of technology — and particularly when that device is made by Apple.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDvweiW5ZKQ&feature=plcp

As the tablet market matures, the demographic shifts from mostly young people to include older consumers and families. Samsung’s recent commercial for its smartphone poked fun at this shifting demographic. While the ad targeted the iPhone, it could apply to all technology that becomes mainstream.

The second factor influencing the growth of Android tablets is simple economics. While the core Apple follower often does not care about price, as the attraction of tablets widens, devices must also speak to people on a budget.

At $99 or $199, Android-powered tablets and smartphones will naturally gain marketshare. The key unknown is whether a budget tablet can also offer superior technology and design.

For consumers, the approach of Android tablets may actually be good. Apple, by squeezing its suppliers and resellers, has achieved enviable profit margins from its products. The threat of greater competition will likely lower Apple prices somewhat.

The company’s continued lead in the tablet arena may more be a question of how much profit Apple is willing to give up to retain that marketshare.

What do you think?

Is Android’s advance unstoppable?