The latest data report from London-headquartered tech sales and pricing research firm CONTEXT shows tablets holding up the otherwise declining consumer PC distribution business across Western Europe —but specifically, Android tablets.
According to the CONTEXT figures, sales of tablets rose 137 percent in the first half of 2013, with low-end Android devices leading that trend.
“In the consumer segment, while the iPad remains a popular choice, we have seen tablet demand steadily driven by low end Android offerings”, said Marie Christine Pygott, Senior Analyst at CONTEXT. “The increasing availability of attractively priced Android systems means consumers can easily buy a tablet as an additional product to their home PC, which means they postpone the replacement of their traditional PC.”
According to the CONTEXT data, Android tablets now account for 61.2 percent of the Western European tablet market, more than double the 25.1 percent recorded the same time last year. Apple iOS devices, meanwhile, fell to 37.2 percent of Western European tablet market sales by distribution, from 71.2 percent at the same time last year.
This analysis also screens out the effect of Windows 8, credited in some quarters with helping to drive increased tablet market share and cut into Apple’s tablet lead, but in fact with little to no impact, according to CONTEXT. Uptake in business quarters, a traditional source of strength for Windows, has been meager, with only 20 percent of total Windows business PC sales in the first half of 2013 accounted for by Windows 8. And Pygott sees the attempt to transmute tablet popularity into Windows demand through hybrid systems as gaining little traction:
“Businesses do not see a need for new product refreshes—many have only just upgraded to Win 7; are reluctant to use Windows 8 given the mixed press it received; and are unsure of the use of touch functionality in a business environment,” added Pygott.
Overall PC sales, meanwhile, slid 12.6 percent in the first half of the year, with netbooks in particular giving way to tablets as preferred basic computing devices, seeing a 75.6 percent sales drop.
On the strength of these figures, then, both Microsoft and Apple now have some serious worries in the tablet space. Apple is facing demand challenges like never before from cheap Android devices, and its premium niche/walled garden strategy can only be coming ever more into question, as the Android ecosystem expands. Microsoft, meanwhile, seems still to be failing to launch into tablets at all, despite the wholesale pitch into touch devices with Windows 8.
In country breakdowns, the UK turns out to be the biggest demand driver for slate sales, with the British market growing almost 390 percent year-on-year. Demand elsewhere is more modest, despite an anomalous blip in Austria, but still robust enough to spell good times ahead for tablets in Europe—and growing worries for Apple and Microsoft.