Android may rule the world of the smartphone, but Apple will rule the tablet market

As regular readers will know I am a big fan of Apple and am especially fond of my iPhone so it was with a heavy heart that in December I foretold the demise of Apple and the rise of Android. However, in recent days I have been forced to reconsider my argument. I recently gave in to pressure and ordered my first non Apple tablet and I have to admit that within ten or fifteen minutes I had thrown it down in frustration.

I first thought maybe I had become so conditioned by Apple that anything would seem alien however I began to investigate some more and have now come to the conclusion that the smart phone market and the tablet market are not the same and though both look like an extension of the same trend, I think that they will very soon become two completely different markets and whilst Android may have won one of those markets Apple could remain the dominant force in the other.

What led me to this conclusion?

1. The facts and figures

As we all know Android beat iPhone fairly and squarely last year in numbers of smart phones sold, and has now over taken that market as the top seller, a fact that has been covered widely. However, in terms of the tablet market in 2010 ipad sold 15 million units, and in 2011 its estimated to sell between 25-30 million units (although their internal target is about 40 million units). Whereas Xoom from Galaxy, Touchpad from HP and Playbook RIM together are not forecasting that they will even come close to what Apple achieved last year.

Also in the tablet market the number of applications available for iPad is triple if not quadruple the number for the other tablets combined. From a revenue point of view just the Apple App Store managed to generate last year 3 billion dollars, that’s significant revenue which can be pumped back into the product. Taken into account all these facts and figures add up to suggest that iPad really does have a huge competitive and market share edge which any new tablet will be hard pressed to overcome. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying this won’t happen but it won’t happen in the next two to three years.

2. The ease of use

By design tablets are usually something you share with other people, so you may want to play a movie for other people to see, you may want to connect it to the TV and so on. If I look at the various tablets on offer from a technology stack vision point of view Android stops at this very basic sharing whereas iPad has the Mac Airplay and iPhone Home Play. These are all about taking the same content and delivering it in different places, there is also Apple TV which no one else has.

Admittedly this might not work very well right now, but Apple appear to have a vision on how all the content should come together and on how the devices will be used that the other tablets lack. This couple with the Apple vision which is plug and play out of the box it seems to me, from an adoption point of view, people will prefer and buy the tablets they are more comfortable with we no need for technical know-how.

At the minute Apple seems far more slick and user friendly than its competitors again I do see that iPad has its flaws for users, I mean I personally hate iTunes, the problem is that everything needs to go through it and to my mind it seems a bit like a added layer that shouldn’t exist while the cable is 20th century technology hampering a 21st century device. However, in terms of user and group experience Apple seem to have the vision and the forethought which will put them at the forefront of the tablet market for many years to come.

3. The route to market

This I really feel is a key differentiator for Apple, as we know Android for smart phones was released as a free of charge operating system for anyone like HTC or Samsung to use, this really aided Google in gaining the majority share in the market. When it comes to the tablet the OS is not really free of charge because there has been a lot of investment on their part Google sell it to the hardware manufacturers. This means that Google have no control over the optimisation of the hardware to the operating system, the only vendor right now that has end to end control is Apple.

This is key as Apple can ensure their offering is as polished and as user friendly as possible. So with little things like the zooming and scrolling you can really see the integration between the hardware capabilities and the operating system and who has gotten it right and who hasn’t.

Therefore the worth of the tablet is judged by the sum of the OS and the Hardware when vendors have no control over one of these a poor hardware offering can destroy the user experience even if the OS is perfect. In such an emerging market this can be suicide as consumers have become accustomed to the iPad way of doing things and poor experience even on a first attempt could turn you forever against that OS. I know this was the case with me and the Android based tablet I bought recently.

4. Market Share

A key factor in the tablet market is who will get more units to the end users faster. As you know Android is sold to the market through third parties such as Samsung and so on but they really only sell the tablets online, whereas Apple continue to reinforce its presence by investing in bricks and mortar everywhere in the world. They are bringing the “Apple experience” to the masses and this emphasised through all of their branding.

With Apple there are so many places for people to touch and feel the technology, even people like my parents (who are in no way technological) can wander into an Apple store to see what all the fuss was about and enjoy and embrace the ease of use so much they walk away having bought an iPad. I really believe that because of this strategy they will capture far more market share over the next three to four years.

So to conclude I believe that whilst Android may rule the world of the smartphone Apple may continue to rule the tablet market for at least the next two to three years. This obviously has ramifications for those of us charged with ensuring enterprise mobility, does this mean we need to create one set of code for mobile and one for tablet?, should we take a risk and back a winner today when the market remains so uncertain? Should we go with the technology the CEO favours?

It could be that Android will dominate both markets, it could be that Apple will dominate one and Android the other but none of this is clear as we also still need to see what Windows mobile will come up with and how the RIM Playbook will taken off, if at all, especially in the enterprise market place. If we think about enterprise mobility it’s very clear that enterprises will want their solution to work both on smart phones and on tablets because each has its own uses and relevance. Can you risk choosing one technology over another?

Ultimately as always I argue we shouldn’t make those choices now we should future proof our infrastructure by choosing a platform (such as uniPaaS) which allows you to write your code once and deploy to any device. Of course I would say that, but can you see a more logical course of action than writing your code for any device, anywhere and for anything?

David Akka is Managing Director at Magic Software Enterprises UK. David is a successful executive manager with a proven track record as a general manager with a strong background in sales, marketing, business development and operations. Past experience in technology and service delivery include both UK and European responsibilities.