iPad thumps Android in purchase plan surveys

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Apple Inc.’s iPad 2 continues to be an overwhelming first choice for both corporate and consumer customers who plan to buy a tablet in the next 90 days, according to recent surveys.

Of the companies and consumers surveyed last month who said they would purchase a tablet in the next three months, 80 per cent of business buyers picked the iPad 2 as their preference, while 85 per cent of consumers voted for Apple’s tablet, said ChangeWave Research on Tuesday.

Apple’s [Nasdaq: AAPL] share among corporate buyers was unchanged since New York-based ChangeWave’s previous poll in May, but was three percentage points higher than a consumers’ February 2011 survey.

Rivals, most of whom power their tablets with Google’s Android mobile operating system, still struggle to gain traction.

Samsung Electronics shows the most promise, said Paul Carton, director of research at ChangeWave, in a note published on the company’s website. Samsung’s share — riding on the back of its Galaxy Tab line — was seven per cent with business buyers, up one point, and up two points to four per cent among consumers.

Dell Inc.[Nasdaq: DELL], Motorola and Research in Motion [Nasdaq: RIMM; TSX: RIM] all lost future purchasing share with both enterprises and consumers, said Carton. And Hewlett-Packard Co. [NYSE:HPQ], which had a strong 10 per cent share of business buying plans and a smaller two per cent share among consumers, discontinued its TouchPad and sold remaining supplies at bargain basement prices last month.

As he has before, Carton pointed to the iPad’s customer satisfaction dominance as a reason for Apple’s future purchasing share.

“A key for the iPad lead is found in its customer satisfaction rating — 70 per cent of consumer iPad owners say they’re ‘Very Satisfied’ with their tablet device,” said Carton. “That dwarfs the ‘Very Satisfied’ rating of all of the other manufacturers combined (42 per cent).”

ChangeWave’s survey results were mirrored by a forecast published today by research firm IDC.

In their sales forecast for the second half of 2011, IDC analysts said that Android’s global share will shrink to 23 per cent of all shipments in the third quarter — which ends Sept. 30 — before bouncing back slightly to 25.9 per cent in the fourth quarter.

Tom Mainelli, a research director in IDC’s mobile group, explained the Android share slip this quarter. “It’s a combination of things, including strong sales of iOS and a million or so WebOS tablets being counted in the quarter,” said Mainelli, referring to HP’s dumping of the WebOS-powered TouchPad. “That inflated the [WebOS] share and deflated Android’s.”

IDC expects WebOS’s share to plummet in the fourth quarter and, unless HP licenses or sells the operating system to another hardware manufacturer, vanish entirely by the end of the first quarter of 2012.

Apple’s worldwide share, meanwhile, will remain stable, accounting for 67.7 per cent of the tablet shipments share in the third quarter and 68 per cent in the fourth.

In the second quarter, iOS held down a 68.3 per cent share.

Through the end of the year, Apple’s iPad will enjoy at 40-plus point edge over Android, said Mainelli, who added there was little danger of Apple losing its majority position in tablets before 2015.

But Android’s share will get a kick-start next year.

“By the fourth quarter, Android tablet makers will have sorted out their pricing issues,” predicted Mainelli. “Initially, they came out [with devices at] the same price as the iPad. That’s proven to be folly.”

If tablet makers manage to lower prices, as IDC expects, Android should own 31 per cent of the tablet market in 2012’s first quarter, Mainelli said.