After dominating the tablet- computing market ever since it unveiled its first iPad in early 2010, Apple is now seeing rival tablet makers not just nipping at its heels but taking bites out of its market share.
According to a report released Monday, Apple’s share of the red-hot tablet market took a sharp dip in the most recent quarter as iPad sales dropped while competitors Samsung and Amazon saw their pieces of the pie grow. And while it wasn’t the first time iPad sales have shown a drop, the September quarter’s sales numbers were in marked contrast with the previous two September quarters, when sales climbed.
Apple still maintains a commanding lead, holding on to a majority of tablet market share in the third quarter, at 50.4 percent. But that was down from 65.5 percent in the second quarter, according to a report from International Data Corp.
The biggest gainers were Samsung, which increased from a 9 percent share in the second quarter to 18.4 percent in the third quarter after releasing its Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet in August, and Amazon, which increased from 5 percent to 9 percent despite releasing its newest tablet, the Kindle Fire HD, late in the quarter, on Sept. 14.
Analysts blamed part of the drop in iPad sales on the new iPad Mini, which went on sale Friday.
“We believe a sizable percentage of consumers interested in buying an Apple tablet sat out the third quarter in anticipation of an announcement about the new iPad Mini,” Tom Mainelli, research director for tablets at IDC, said in a statement.
But in a potentially troubling sign for Apple, the IDC report did not show a slowdown in tablet sales overall. Instead, sales grew nearly 50 percent from the same quarter the year before and 6.7 percent from the second quarter. Samsung specifically provided strong competition to Apple in the quarter, posting the largest share of the tablet market by any company not named Apple since the introduction of the iPad.
Apple on Monday focused on the positive, announcing that it had sold 3 million iPads on the first week of selling its new downsized iPad Mini and the fourth-generation iPad. Investors cheered the news, driving up Apple shares 1.4 percent to close at $584.62.
But because Apple didn’t provide a breakdown of how many of those units sold were Minis versus fourth-generation, it’s impossible to know whether the full-size iPad is still caught in its September slump.
Gene Munster, senior research analyst with Piper Jaffray, said iPad sales had dropped from previous quarters in early 2011 and again in early 2012, and he cautioned that “the quarterly market share numbers don’t tell the whole story because of the anticipation of the Mini and the timing of other product releases” by various tablet makers.
“IPad sales have been up and down,” Munster said. “And given that we only have 21/2 years of a trend here, it’s hard to really look historically and draw conclusions.”
Samsung specifically provided strong competition to Apple in the quarter, posting the largest share of the tablet market by any company not named Apple since the introduction of the iPad.
“Samsung took advantage of an opportunity in the second quarter,” Ryan Reith, manager of IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers program, said. “The company offers a wide range of tablet offerings across multiple screen sizes and colors, and that clearly resonated with more buyers this quarter. Its growth to 18.4 percent of worldwide market share during the quarter represents the first time a competitor has attained this level of share since the original launch of the iPad.”
Samsung and Apple have staged a global legal battle in which Apple says Samsung infringed on iPad and iPhone patents, copying popular elements of the devices in order to boost sales.
Apple won a $1.05 billion verdict in a San Jose, Calif., courtroom battle, which Samsung is now appealing.