The research firm NPD DisplaySearch announced that a whopping 72.7 million tablets were sold in 2011, as reported by CNET yesterday. That's an astounding 256% increase over 2010. And while Apple's slate is likely a huge chunk of that total, some analysts believe that Amazon's extremely affordable Kindle Fire ate up some of Apple's share. This all then begs the question: could this burst in usage be partially fueled by a trend toward new attractive price points amongst iPad "competitors"?
We noted in our piece about things that will cost less in 2012 that the Fire would usher in lower prices for a plethora of brand-name manufacturers' tablets — and we've already begun to see this trend.
There are dozens of eminent mid-range tablets available with an average price of around $250. At this price point, manufacturers can put tablets into the hands of a new demographic who have otherwise been priced out of the iPad and expensive Android tablet territory. And although the Fire has led the charge in terms of affordability, it's gained some notable competition as of late: the BlackBerry Playbook was originally priced between $500 to $700, but now regularly sells for just $200 to $300. (BlackBerry itself just slashed all three versions to $299, which is an all-time low for the 64GB model; we've seen the 16GB for as low as $189.)
What's more, several 10" tablets that originally sold for as much as $400 can now consistently be found for much cheaper, like the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 (which reached its lowest price at $280 for 32GB), Acer Iconia ($220 for 16GB), Toshiba Thrive ($300 for 16GB), and Asus Eee Pad Transformer ($300 for 16GB). And other brand name manufacturers are joining the pack. Recently Sony permanently discounted its 16GB and 34GB S Tablets (pictured) by $100, taking it from a higher-end market to smack dab in the middle of the $400 to $500 range. (We've seen the 16GB model for as low as $370.) And while we traditionally see Apple withdraw from the pricing game that other manufacturers play, there are rumors that the iPad 2, upon the 3rd-generation's release, will join the ranks of the mid-range tablet market.
By offering comparable systems and costs, most tablet makers are aligning themselves in the thick of the slate market, and the affordability of these tablets has helped bring the latest wave of mobile technology to the masses. However, some experts worry that tablet sales growth will cut into laptop sales in the future. Still, approximately 188 million laptops were sold in 2011 (compared to the aforementioned 72.7 million tablets), and Google-owned mobile ad network AdMob discovered that just 28% of people surveyed use their tablet as their primary computer.
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Front page photo credit: Be Found Online