Is Amazon the Answer to iPad Dominance in 2011?

As orders pour in today for the iPad 2, two separate research firms add to the chorus of reports showing that the tablet PC sector is on the cusp of huge growth for the year, with Apple's mobile device dominating the market despite a flurry of challengers.

Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad 2 is on sale now at Apple's website, and will be available in Apple retail stores, as well as at Verizon Wireless and AT&T stores and at Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target.

The analyst community is expecting an unprecedented debut, with 600,000 units expected to sell this weekend, and some believe it will surpass the first model's numbers -- 300,000 original iPads sold within 24 hours of its availability. This comes in the wake of a spate of research firm reports that say the tablet sector will realize explosive growth for 2011, while the iPad and its new sibling retain the top-seller spot by a vast margin.

IDC's recent tablet data report shows that worldwide shipments of tablets more than doubled from 4.5 million in the third quarter of 2010 to 10.1 million in Q4.

"Strong holiday sales of media tablets were in line with IDC projections and strong consumer interest in the category while device vendors scrambled to offer products competitive with Apple's iPad and now iPad 2," Loren Loverde, vice president, Consumer Device Trackers at IDC, said in a statement. "Media Tablets are on pace to reach shipments of roughly 50 million units in 2011."

The IDC report goes on to say that Apple will maintain an 80 percent market share, which matches the estimates of Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

The two also agree on why the challengers, namely the 7-inch and 10-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab line and the Motorola Xoom, are not likely to catch up to Apple any time soon -- timing, price and marketing.

Apple is already launching the iPad 2 before most competitors release their first device.

"Samsung started shipping its 7-inch Galaxy Tab media tablet in 4Q10. Although its shipments into the channel were fairly aggressive, a lack of competitive pricing and ongoing competition from Apple stifled consumer demand. Samsung is expected to follow with a 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab with Android 3.0 Honeycomb later this year, but the refresh will have a tough time maintaining share as more competitors enter the market," says the IDC report.

Things aren't looking much better for the $800 Xoom."The recently launched Motorola Xoom is a worthy competitor in function, although the relatively high price is expected to be a barrier to gaining significant share," according to IDC.

Rotman Epps says there's more to it than pricing, saying that competing tablets "can’t match the Apple Store as a channel."

She does, however, nominate Amazon as a potential foe of Apple.

"It would be easy to call the game for Apple as the second inning is starting, but we won’t, because we see a market that’s ripe for disruption by Amazon in particular. Amazon could create a compelling Android- or Linux-based tablet offering easy access to Amazon’s storefront (including its forthcoming Android app store) and unique Amazon features like one-click purchasing, Amazon Prime service, and its recommendations engine," writes Rotman Epps in her blog post "Why iPad 2 Won't Have Competition in 2011 --Unless It's From Amazon."


Amazon, mobile, Apple, tablet, iPad 2