Apple's iPad Relevant Products/Services absolutely dominates the tablet Relevant Products/Services scene in the U.S., and few analysts expect that to change anytime soon. But that may not be the case in Europe.
According to a new report from Forrester Relevant Products/Services Research, Apple's rivals may fare better in Europe -- with some caveats. So says Sarah Rotman Epps, author of a Forrester report released Tuesday 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," Epps wrote in a blog post.
Small Window of Opportunity
The good news is that Europe is and will remain a huge market for tablets. Forrester predicts that EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) will account for 14.5 million, or 30 percent, of worldwide consumer tablet sales in 2011. Three times the number of Europeans who have tablets today say they are interested in buying one in the future.
Apple also has a stronghold in the United Kingdom, but beyond the shores of the U.S. ally Forrester said tablet makers could find opportunities to compete against the iPad maker. It offered some stats to help paint the picture of Apple and its tablet competition in Europe. Apple has 52 Stores in Europe, but 30 of them are in the U.K. That compares to 238 Apple stores in the U.S.
"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 U.S.," Rotman said. "But no competitor has met Apple's challenge. Despite Apple's potential vulnerability, we estimate that Apple still has 70 percent market share for tablet sell-through to consumers in Europe."
Focus on Price
She was quick to point out that sell-through is different from shipments. Forrester interviews with European retailers confirmed that non-iPad tablets are sitting in the retail channel. In other words, manufacturers are shipping more tablets than consumers are buying. As she sees it, iPad competitors' prices are too high, and no competitor has matched Apple on content or channel strategy. What does this mean?
"Low-cost tablets from ODMs like Huawei and ZTE will put downward pricing pressure on the market, but consumers need more than a lower price tag to buy. Sony, which has a strong brand and channel presence in Europe but tends to price on the high end, may have some success with its upcoming Sony S1 tablet," Rotman said. "But truly radical disruption requires (creating a new experience), as we expect Amazon to do in the U.S. Without a radical Amazon-like disruptor, Europeans are likely to buy an iPad -- or wait for something truly different to come along."
Apple's Tablet World
Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner Relevant Products/Services, said competing with Apple's iPad anywhere in the world boils down to this fundamental question: Why should consumers should buy a competing tablet as opposed to an iPad, which is rapidly becoming the standard for tablets in terms of price, features and applications?
"Apple is still dominating by a very large margin," Gartenberg said. "Certainly a lot of these competitive products are great products in and of themselves in a world where Apple doesn't exist. But unfortunately for them, Apple is around."