Tablet Wars to Continue - Possible Move into Smartphone Battlefield

Written by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D. Monday, 20 February 2012 14:01


Tablet Wars to Continue - Possible Move into Smartphone Battlefield click to see full-size image

Final numbers are closing out the data for 2011 and they show that Apple was not only the leading OEM for tablet and smartphone sales, but that it was its own biggest competitor.  Can an OEM survive a battle with itself?  Sure, if it is Apple and the competition is between a new iPad and a new iPhone.

Sales in the media tablet sector continue on their brisk pace as confirmed last week, when iSuppli released their data on 4Q11 Tablet Market report here.  The iSuppli data show a marked increase in global media tablet sales for 2011, coming in above iSuppli's own year-over-year estimates for the entire sector, at 65.2 million units.

Apple's iPad3 is expected to be released in the upcoming 2Q12, and the rumor mill continues as to whether or not there will (also?) be an iPad "mini" (8" size range) or not (see here for one of the early rumors from Oct. 2011, and here for the latest rumor buzz from ComputerWorld). It would find it's competition among the likes of Samsung's Galaxy Note which is seen as a "fascinating" device somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet, as reviewed here by ComputerWorld.

Whether or not there is an iPad mini to come out in the next quarter is of interest because the playing field is still quite competitive with new releases and new niches vying for the consumer and enterprise users' fingertips (and purse strings).  As the Wall Street Journal reported here, the tablet wars are on the increase moving into 2Q12, with Barnes & Noble also set to come out with a mid-range Nook Tablet with 8 GB built-in memory to directly compete with Amazon's US $199 Kindle Fire.  This addition to the Nook line-up is likely to even further boost revenue for Barnes & Noble, who reported strong year-over-year sales increases according to the WSJ article, "In January, the retailer said its Nook business is expected to generate $1.5 billion in sales for the current fiscal year ended April 28, compared with $880 million a year earlier."

Sony also began pre-demoing their latest gaming handheld device to be released on 2/22/12, which is not quite a tablet, but is mentioned here because it hopes to open the market for "serious gamers" who want a dedicated handheld device that is something between a smartphone and a tablet for games.  The new Sony PlayStation Vita, as discussed in the WSJ here, is one of the first quad-core handheld devices but whether or not there will be a niche for non-phone, smaller handhelds is yet to be seen.  What is certain is that handheld gaming could use a boost and if this market entry hits, watch for others.

Among the down news last week was Nvidia's posting of sequential losses at 32% for mobile chips (see here from WSJ).  However, among the top reasons that Nvidia cited for the decline were  problems from the Thai floods as well as yield issues at the 28nm level at TSMC.  But, when dealing with a skittish market and sector, any bad news tends to be big news.  Nvidia did state in the same WSJ article that they expect profitability to resume and gain by the end of 2012 based on their upcoming latest Tegra release.

With Mobile World Congress in Barcelona set to happen next week, there will be many unveilings and a stark increase in the buzz around devices from tablets to smartphones.

Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Monday, 20 February 2012 14:01 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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