Two years, 55M iPads later, Apple still rules tablets

Written on:January 25, 2012
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Just under two years since Apple introduced the original iPad, the company said Tuesday that it’s now sold a total of 55 million units. And in the last three months of 2010 alone, Apple sold 15.4 million. Not only is that a sales record for Apple, that’s far more than any other competitor. And for comparison’s sake, it’s three times as many as Macs the company sold during the same quarter, even though Mac sales also broke records.

Notably, this dominance of the field has continued even as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as a handful of other companies, have poured into this market to sell tablets. Still, none have been able to dislodge Apple’s tight grip on consumers’ demonstrated preference here. And CEO Tim Cook basically dismissed Amazon and its Kindle Fire (and others) as true competitors. Here’s what Cook said on Tuesday during the earnings call for one of the company’s best quarters ever:

I think people really want to do multiple things with their tablets, so we don’t see limited-function tablets and e-readers as being in the same category. They’ll sell a fair number of units but people who want an iPad won’t settle for limited function.

Last year was supposed to be the year of the tablet … but most people would agree it was the year of the iPad, for the second year in a row. And we’re going to continue to innovate like crazy.

Data from Pew Research found that during December that both e-readers and tablet ownership nearly doubled, so clearly some people want e-readers. And sales estimates indicate Amazon, whose Kindle Fire is significantly cheaper than the iPad, may have sold around 5 million Kindle Fires between October and December 2011.

Not only is Apple’s tablet outselling all other competitors in its market, it’s taking down devices outside tablets too. On the call, Cook also noted that per NPD data, the iPad outsold desktop PCs last quarter. He also repeated, as he has for the past few quarters, that he does see the iPad taking away sales that would otherwise go to Macs as well. And he’s OK with that:

There is cannibalization of the Mac by the iPad but we continue to believe there is much more cannibalization of Windows PCs by the iPad. We love that trend, we think it’s great for us.

With growth among consumers, education (Apple sold 1.5 million iPads to schools last year, which was more than the number of Macs sold to schools), airlines, healthcare companies and a growing list of large enterprise companies in almost every field, Apple has very clearly covered its bases early, making it hard for competitors to beat it in any particular target market.

So can anyone loosen Apple’s grip on tablets? The company’s momentum here doesn’t look like it’s about to diminish any time soon. And let’s not forget it’s very likely that a new iPad model is just around the corner.

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