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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) sold around 4.2 million iPads in Q3 and captured around 95% of the tablet market according to research done by Strategy Analytics.[1]. Gartner predicts tablet sales of 55 million in 2011,[2] and if Apple captures 80% of this market, this translates to 44 million sold. This is double our 20 million estimate for next year and would add around 5% upside to the $418 Trefis price estimate for Apple’s stock. However, competing tablets will flood the market next year and could take more market share than we currently expect.

HP (NYSE:HPQ), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), LG Electronics (OTC:LGERF), Research in Motion (RIMM), Samsung (OTC:SSNLF), Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF), and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) are all angling for a piece of the tablet market and have either recently launched tablets or are planning to launch one early next year.

While Apple has distribution and first mover advantages, competitors with smaller tablets, added features and the popular multi-media player Adobe Flash – which the iPad does not support – might put up a stiff fight in the tablet market.

Distribution Advantage for Now

HP could only take orders for 9,000 units of its Slate tablet in the first few days of its launch [3]. In comparison, Apple sold 300,000 iPads on the first day of its launch [4]. Apple’s planning and well established distribution channels allowed it to handle the surge in demand which helped establish the tablet market.

These distribution channels for the iPad are growing as well. Since July 2010, Apple has been selling the device at Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Target (NYSE:TGT), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), in addition to company-owned stores and its website.

Also expansion into international markets, including China where the iPad launched in Sep 2010, is expected to fuel more growth. We currently estimate that Apple will sell 12.5 million iPads in 2010 and 20 million in 2011, which may look quite conservative given demand growth. You can adjust these assumptions in the chart above.

Price, Screen Size and Flash the Concerns

However, other tablets may take some market share from the iPad by offering new features at a lower pricing point. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet is much smaller size (7 inches) and so can fit into a coat pocket. It has two cameras, one in the front and one in the back, while the iPad currently doesn’t have a camera.

Companies might also look to lower prices to attract more budget conscious customers potentially affecting Apple’s pricing strategy. Companies like HP, Cisco, Dell and RIM have strong relationships with corporate customers and could offer attractive pricing to these clients to establish an enterprise market for tablets.

Moreover, almost all competitors other than Apple will support Adobe Flash, which is a multi-media platform that adds animation and interactivity to web pages. Apple chose to support HTML5 instead of Flash in a much-publicized attack from Steve Jobs on Adobe.

Currently 75% of all online videos still use Flash, and it could remain the preferred online video platform in the near future, which could be a competitive disadvantage to the iPad[5].

Though Apple’s iPad has set the standard for tablets, the number of competitors entering the market with different offerings could take share from Apple.

Notes:

  1. Strategy Analytics: Tablet market for Q3 2010
  2. Wall Street Journal: Apple iPad dominates tablet market
  3. AppleInsider: HP Slate Sees Demand Sizzle
  4. Apple iPad first Day Sales
  5. Discussed in another Trefis article

Disclosure: No position

Source: iPad’s Challenge for Next Year