IDC sees Android tablets gaining traction, iPad maintaining dominance through 2016

More end-of-the-year forecasts are out, again predicting Apple will shed some of its tablet market share as Android alternatives increase in popularity. This time, the full-size iPad and iPad mini would end 2012 with just under 54 percent, while Android tablets are expected to increase market share to almost 42 percent.

All told, Apple is estimated to hold half the tablet shipments through the year 2016. The figures are interesting, as far as they go, and would appear to be dire news for Apple – until you actually look at the numbers and measure sales versus usage. More about that after the break…

Reuters reports Wednesday that research firm IDC sees 2012 wrapping up with Apple’s share of the worldwide at 53.8 percent of the global tablet market – down from 56.3 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, Android tablets are expected to improve on their market share, reaching 42.7 percent – up from 39.8 percent last year.

IDC notes:

Android tablets are gaining traction in the market thanks to solid products from Google, Amazon, Samsung, and others.

And Apple’s November iPad mini launch, along with its surprise refresh of the full-sized iPad, positions the company well for a strong holiday season.

Long term, IDC predicts Windows-based tablets (including Windows 8 and Windows RT) will grab share from both iOS and Android, growing from one percent of the market in 2011 to 2.9 percent in 2012, on its way to 10.2 percent in 2016.

One might glance at the numbers at conclude Apple is losing the battle to Android.

Instead, we are talking about market share movement in the low single digits: Apple’s 2012 global share of tablet sales will be 2.5 percent lower than 2011. By contrast, Android tablet sales will grow by an enormous 2.9 percent for this entire year. Then there is the whole argument of sales versus usage.

Android tablets are shipping, but they must remain in a buyer’s desk drawer or gathering dust, because survey after survey finds iOS devices easily outnumber Android products online. Not only are six out of ten mobile videos viewed by iOS devices, Apple devices lead when it comes to online ads viewed.

Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, December 5, 2012

Then there was Black Friday.

As we reported recently, Apple again bested Android in sales.

Overall, iOS leads in usage while Android shipments are increasing. While sales are important, they are not the sole indicator of how well a product is performing in the real world.

While it is only natural that a hot product will eventually slow, if Apple continues to lose 2.5 percent of the every twelve months, it will be more than a year until it slips below the 50 percent mark. Along the way, the company will continue to outpace Android in usage.

Perhaps more interesting than the market share back-and-forth is IDC’s increase of the potential market for tablets. The researcher increased its forecast for 2012 shipments to 122.3 million devices, up from 117.1 million. At the same time, the company foresees 172.4 million tablets shipping in 2013, up from 165.9 million.

Can Apple retain the top position in tablets if it loses out to Android in sheer numbers?

We’ve sort of seen this picture before with Android quickly taking the #1 spot in smartphone sales, yet the iPhone remains both a huge revenue source and point of prestige for Apple.