It's that time of year again! Next week I'm headed to Las Vegas for CES 2012, along with 140,000 other people (bring your hand sanitizer!). Here's what I'll be looking for among the masses of gadgets:
Tablets: Ice Cream Sandwich, Windows 8, and all the rest. Last year, there were more than 80 tablets that debuted at CES. This year, I expect the field to be whittled down some, but there will be plenty of CE manufacturers strutting their stuff. Look for new Android 4.0 tablets from Motorola, Toshiba, Acer, and others. Will they sell better than last year? I don't expect to see any barn-burners, but there's reason to be optimistic: The percentage of US tablet shoppers who say they prefer Android as the operating system on that tablet doubled from 9% to 18% between January and September 2011. Meanwhile, the percentage of tablet shoppers who say they prefer Windows decreased from 46% to 25% — still more than those who prefer Android. We'll be looking for the dazzling Windows 8 demos at the Microsoft booth and elsewhere. In addition, we'll be looking at how smaller companies are using Android as an enabling platform but building their own curated experience on top. For example, I'm meeting with Jean-Yves Hepp to check out the Qooq, an Android-based tablet optimized for cooking and kitchen use that's selling well in France.
We are publishing a new Forrester report today on the European tablet market. With the recent launch (and huge marketing push) of the Acer Iconia Tab and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in multiple European countries, one might think that things were looking up for Android tablets in Europe — but that’s not the case. In our report, we found that:
Europe is, and will be, a huge market for tablets. We are projecting that EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) will account for 14.5 million, or 30%, of worldwide consumer tablet sales in 2011. Three times as many Europeans as have tablets today say they are interested in buying one in the future.
Outside the UK, Apple could be vulnerable to competition. Apple has 52 Apple Stores in Europe, and 30 of them are in the UK. (For reference, there are 238 Apple Stores in the US.) Apple’s brand and channel presence is not uniformly strong in Europe; Mac ownership, for example, is lower in every EU-7 country than it is in the US.
But no competitor has met Apple’s challenge. Despite Apple’s potential vulnerability, we estimate that Apple still has 70% market share for tablet sell-through to consumers in Europe. (Sell-through is different from shipments; our interviews with European retailers confirmed that non-iPad tablet inventory is sitting in the channel — i.e., manufacturers are shipping more tablets than consumers are buying. So if you read reports that Apple has a lower market share, look at whether the report is measuring shipments or sell-through.) What’s more, non-iPad tablet competition is quite fragmented — OEMs, operators, and niche players form a crowded marketplace but one notably devoid of shoppers. iPad competitors’ prices are too high, and no competitor has matched Apple on content or channel strategy.
Two words were on everyone's lips today when it came to tablet talk: Honeycomb and LTE, the next-generation much faster network billed as "4G." Honeycomb is Google's first tablet-optimized version of its Android operating system, which will run on tablets like the Motorola Xoom, LG G-Slate, and Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Honeycomb isn't fully operational yet so it's hard to say how well these tablets will perform; early demos show a user experience that looks similar to the Palm WebOS "deck of cards" metaphor for switching between applications.
The Honeycomb tablets have features the iPad doesn't (yet) have, like front and back cameras for video chatting and HDMI outputs for connecting your tablet to your TV. Add in the superspeedy LTE capabilities, which we'll see in tablets in the second half of 2011, and here's what you get: better video and better gaming experiences. Think Skyping and G-chatting with less latency, watching videos with less stuttering, seeing more and more video on sites like Facebook. Not to mention more complex, real-time gaming: Nvidia demoed a concept for cross-platform gaming where you could play a game on your Android tablet with a friend on a PC or Sony PS3 game console.
As Apple announces it has sold more than 2 million iPads (no indication of US/global split), would-be competitors are unveiling their tablets at Computex in Taiwan. With so many products in the mix (and so few on the market), it can be hard for a product strategist to keep up with it all. So here’s Forrester’s quick guide to the tablets that are taking on Apple in the near future (note: this list doesn’t include devices that may have a tablet form factor but are primarily eBook readers, such as Acer’s planned 7” Android tablet. It also excludes tablets that are more rumor than reality. And I know just by putting together this list I will leave some off, and if that’s the case leave a comment and tell me which ones you think I should add. Okay, enough caveats!):