In 2009, Apple introduced the iPad and while the appeal to the home user seemed clear, the benefits in business over and above the laptop computer or the smartphone were less defined. The lightness and intuitive user interface were clearly useful to the mobile worker but the lack of a Windows or Mac OS meant limited standard business software. A recent forecast by GigaOM’s J. Gerry Purdy (February 2012) estimates that worldwide sales of tablet devices in 2016 will be over 366 million units compared to 62 million in 2011. We have reviewed GigaOM’s forecast with business use in mind.
In terms of applications, developers are leveraging the hardware advances to produce entire tablet ecosystems, rather than just a repurposing of content already created on PC’s, the web and smartphones.
At present there are two major players with respect to tablet Operating Systems; Apple iOS and Google Android. Apple is a closed system in that its devices and iOS operating system are integrated together and iOS is not licensed to others. In contrast Google’s Android system has been licensed to other manufacturers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, HTC and Motorola, each manufacturing their own tablets and creating their own custom applications. Nokia, in a strategic partnership with Windows was unsuccessful first time around but is expected to relaunch a line of tablets later in 2012.
GigaOM forecast that the global shipments by OS in 2016 will be 179 million for Apple iOS compared to 46 million in 2011 and 185 million for Google Android in 2016 compared to 15 million in 2011. Windows and other operating systems are forecast to ship less than 13 million units in total in 2016.
GigOM also predict that while the 10-11″ tablet will continue to grow, the 7-8″ will become the overall segment leader, because it is cheaper to produce and easier to hold. The 5-6″ device will also have a place in enterprise particularly in vertical markets such as in-vehicle and medical. GigaOM believe that Apple will launch a tablet at $199 by the end of 2012 and a 7″ tablet in the next 12 to 18 months.
In terms of WiFi Vs 3G data, the current 20/80 split in 2011 is forecast to switch to 80/20 in 2016 based on networks packaging their costs to be more affordable and also the lowering of manufacturing costs for the 3G devices.
Finally, the article refers to the current split of tablet devices being sold 80% to consumers and 20% to enterprise. By 2016 the enterprise market is expected to account for 55% of tablet purchases. This can be explained by the fact that the differences between laptops and tablets are expected to diminish and the tablet will take market share from the laptop. GigaOm also comment that the desktop operating systems market will begin to tail off or even diminish by 2016. They conclude that tablets are here to stay and they represent the next advancement in mobile computing.