As Samsung passes Apple in mobile, who'll be No. 3?
There are three contenders and at least one wildcard entry in the battle for 2013 tablet sales.
We're not talking about crumbs for losers here. According to the report from International Data Corp., device shipments in 2012 totaled 722 million smart phones, a year-over-year increase of 46%, and 128 million tablets, an increase of more than 78%.
Sales of desktop PCs and laptops declined slightly in the same period. IDC points out that the comparison is not entirely fair, since mobile devices are considerably cheaper and are replaced more often.
In 2012, Chinese electronics producer Lenovo (LNVGY) was a distant No. 3, but the distinction was nothing to brag about. There are so many brands in both smartphones and tablets that the category of "Other" actually outsells Apple and Samsung combined.
So, it's by no means too late for some other device to catch the attention of fickle consumers. And just about all of them are in Barcelona this week to show off their latest at the Mobile World Congress.
Here are three new devices that are getting serious attention there, for better or worse:
- Sony's (SNE) Xperia Tablet Z is looking like an early favorite at the high end of the market. Sony has struggled for attention for so long that it's hard to remember it was once renowned for its beautiful design of everyday objects. That may have changed somewhat when it brought out the Xperia Tablet Z this week. Early reviewers are using words swiped from fashion coverage, like "svelte" and "sexy." A CNN reviewer calls it "freakishly thin and impossibly light." At 1.09 pounds and 0.27 inches thick, it is considerably lighter and skinnier than Apple's iPad.
Whomever they are, the Google Android-based Xperia Z will cost them precisely the same as an Apple iPad: $499 for the 16 GB version or $599 for 32 GB.
- Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) raised eyebrows with a new tablet, the HP Slate 7, but it wasn't the specs that caused the stir. Aimed at the low end of the tablet market and priced at just $169, the Slate 7 is the kind of no-frills box that makes the tech press go "meh." That doesn't mean it won't appeal to consumers, if only because it costs $30 less than Google's own low-end Nexus 7, and Amazon's (AMZN) low-end Kindle, both priced at $199.
HP's official line is that the Android Slate 7 is its consumer offering, while the Windows 8 ElitePad is an enterprise model. That might even be true, since HP had already publicly dissed the low-end version of Windows 8 software, called Windows RT.
- Now about that market leader, Samsung. It's going straight for the Apple iPad Mini market with the Galaxy Note 8. The device was not unveiled so much as teased in Barcelona, with pricing and specs still unknowns. But the sneak peak was enough to give the impression that the Galaxy Note 8 is designed to look, feel, and operate just like the company's popular Galaxy line of smartphones, in a marginally larger 8-inch form.
A recent Forrester Research survey suggests that the employees, if they have a choice, would just as soon stick with Microsoft. Its survey of nearly 10,000 information workers found that the vast majority do not currently use a tablet for business. But if and when they get one, more want a Microsoft Windows 8 tablet than an Apple tablet, and Google's Android comes in a distant third.
On the other hand, the Windows 8 phone barely registers as an option. Apple's iPhone still rules the category.
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