Tablet frenzy to aid lite OS growth

From essentially a standing start in 2010, Ovum expects shipments of tablets and other mobile Internet devices based on “lite” OSs to reach 14.2 million by year-end.
This figure is forecast to rise to 150.1 million units in calendar year 2015, with tablet-style devices dominating shipments. This equates to a CAGR of 60.4% across the period 2010–15.
Strong sales but not quite the computing revolution some are expecting
The bulk of growth in shipments for tablets and other mobile Internet devices will arise from a combination of two factors, in Ovum’s view.
The first is substitution of segments of the PC market – primarily notebooks, netbooks, and tablet-style devices based on PC software platforms for similar mobile and portable computers based on lite OSs such as Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and RIM’s BlackBerry Tablet OS. However, we expect replacement of PCs to remain small in the forecast period and beyond.
The second factor is additional device sales on top of those for smartphones and PCs, either as “third devices” in high-penetration PC markets or as primary computing devices in low-penetration PC markets.
Nonetheless, the greater utility of smartphones for a majority of users means that shipments of the tablet and other lite OS devices will not dramatically erode the growing demand for smartphones. This is especially true given their obvious similarity in hardware and software technology.
North America and Western Europe will experience the greatest penetration of tablet and other mobile Internet devices by 2015, with 23% and 19% of global shipments respectively.
However, the largest regional slice of shipments by the end of the period will be the Asia-Pacific region, which will account for 35% of all such device shipments in 2015 due to the size of the potential addressable markets and the relatively low penetration of PCs (desktop and portable).
This smaller-than-expected opportunity to ship lite OS tablets and other similarly powered devices (in clamshell, notebook, convertible, and potentially other form factors) is missing the point.
Of greater importance is the use of lite OSs themselves. These software platforms – optimized for light, easy-access computing use cases – are in most cases derived from smartphone rather than PC thinking and frequently share common underpinnings with them.
This is especially significant to application and content developers, both in increasing the size of the installed base of devices they are targeting, and in reusing skills and assets accumulated when developing across other form factors.
Those OS vendors with the biggest footprint across multiple device categories and screens stand the greatest chance of attracting and retaining the best developers. So far the greatest beneficiary of this effect has been Apple, whose iPad Ovum expects to constitute 90% of the total market opportunity in 2010.
The remaining 10% of shipments in 2010 will be made up of similar tablet form
factor devices running variants of Google’s OSs (primarily Android but possibly some Chrome OS), coming from a number of vendors.
It is these that Ovum expects to dominate the space in the long term, albeit only overtaking those based on Apple’s iOS in the final year of the forecast, 2015, when we forecast 36% and 35% market shares respectively.
Products based on other software platforms will find some success in the marketplace but will fail to break the duopoly of Apple and Google in the forecast period, capturing only 29% of the market opportunity between then by the end of 2015.
Here the competition will be between RIM’s BlackBerry Tablet OS, HP’s WebOS, Nokia and Intel's MeeGo - and Microsoft, which Ovum expects to enter the market for tablet and other mobile Internet devices during 2011.