Tablet Update: iPad, Kindle Fire, Win 8

I care a lot about the tablet category because, quite selfishly, I see them (and eBooks) as a way out of the book sales doldrums. According to the Association of American Publishers, eBooks sales grew by 202% in the past year, while the Trade Category declined by 34%. It ain’t rocket surgery to figure out which way the wind is blowing.

So it is with great interest that I find not one but two reports out today, one about tablet sales, the other about tablet projections. Two very different reports, one with a consumer focus, the other with a business focus. Maybe not so different…

THE FIRST is from Amazon, continuing their positive reports for Kindle sales through the holidays. Amazon are typically cagey in their report, saying only that “customers purchased well over 1 million Kindle devices per week.” Those numbers are being helpfully interpreted as 4 million Kindle units in December, most of them the new Fire, according to Casey Johnston at Arstechnica. That projects to about 6 million units sold since the new Kindle Fire became available in mid-November.

By contrast, Apple is projected to sell 13 million iPads through the last quarter of 2011, according to JP Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz, in a note that adjusted iPad numbers down from 13.3 million because of strong Kindle sales.

THE SECOND report comes from market research firm NPD. They’ve had some dodgy reports in the recent past, including one that excluded iPad sales from its research estimates. Ok, bygones be bygones. Whatever. NPD are reporting now on tablet purchase considerations in the business sector over the next 12 months. Their findings?

Nearly 75% of U.S. small and medium businesses (SMB) plan to purchase tablets over the next twelve months. That number goes higher as business size grows; among larger firms, 89 percent plan to purchase new tablets in the next 12 months. Average spend ranges from a high of $39K to a low of $2K (the latter firms with under 50 employees). Most of those tablets will be the iPad.

“Businesses of all sizes appear to be determined to capitalize on the tablet phenomenon,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. “The iPad, just as it is in the consumer market, is synonymous for ‘Tablet’ in the business market, leaving Apple poised to take advantage of the increased spending intentions of these SMBs. NPD’s research shows that iPad purchase preference is higher among larger firms than smaller ones, which is an important indicator that Apple is gaining traction far outside its typical consumer space.”

Given the “consumerization of IT,” we also expect a fair number of tablets to enter the business market through the hands of employees. We’ve seen it before. Which leaves us with a few questions.

  • Will the Kindle Fire Go Enterprise?
  • Too soon to tell, but if past is prologue, one will see employees bringing their Fire to work. The biggest near-term hurdle for the Fire is its lack of cellular (3G-4G) support, which in the past has enabled employees to get around corporate WiFi restrictions.
  • What about Windows 8 Tablets?
  • At least one analyst, Bernstein Research, is bullish on Windows 8 tablets. According to Todd Bishop, Bernstein believes Windows 8 tablets to be most attractive to business users, in part due to compatibility with existing line-of-business apps.
  • It’s not the big market chunk that the consumer opportunity represents, but it should give Microsoft a toe-hold where other competitors (Android, anyone?) have struggled failed. I am less optimistic that these tablets will come through the employee back door, however. I am predicting it’s an IT purchase all the way.

We shall see.

Odds & Ends

A few tidbits that caught my attention during the holidays. Or about the holidays. Or ignoring the holidays, for as long as possible.

Book & Movie News

  • Alaska filming has ended on “Frozen Ground,” starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack.
  • From the you-can’t-make-this-up department: As the story goes, there’s a scene [in Frozen Ground] where a moose menaces the teenage hooker-heroine who helps nail Hansen. So they rounded up a regular street moose that promptly got spooked and charged for real.
  • Anchorage even cooperated with moviemakers by delivering an early big dump of snow.

Black Friday/Monday News
Mobile (and cyber) sales are finally taking off, as recent IBM data for Black Friday shows.

  • 10.3 percent of online sales came from mobile shoppers.
  • 17 percent of all shoppers used mobile devices to track exclusive offers and sales updates.
  • iPhone continues to lead all mobile device traffic at 6.58 %, followed by Android at 5.20% and iPad at 4.71%.
  • Equally interesting, iOS led mobile device traffic at 11.29% compared to 5.20% for Android. Or more than double.

The biggest change here is the that retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Macy’s and Apple targeted mobile devices with shopping apps, notifications and alerts. In the grand scheme of things, this tells us at least two things: First, retailers have found ways to go directly to consumers and skip Google’s intermediating engine; second, it further explains Amazon’s strategy of putting out a device that’s a pipeline to their retail experience — and which, by the way, also skips Google’s intermediating engine.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

  • Finally, there’s this story about how two recent market studies leave out iPad sales in their tablet market reviews. This lets them write headlines suggesting that “a large group of consumers are looking for alternatives [to the iPad tablet].”
  • But it’s not true, actually. John Gruber estimates that the iPad actually has, oh, something like 89% of the market. Which means that 11% are truly looking at alternatives — and some of them bought HP tablets at fire sale prices.