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High-end Samsung slabs, cheapie Androids take healthy BITE out of Apple's market share

Q3 sales growth stalls but Redmond's Surface still waiting in wings

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The rise of entry-level slabs coupled with an "ageing" portfolio caused Apple iPad sales growth to flatline in calendar Q3 and market share to crash, analyst figures have confirmed.

Global sales-in numbers – shipments to retailers and distributors – show that 51.5 million slabs were rolled out in the three months, up 113 per cent on the same quarter in 2012.

And while the post-Jobsian empire is still top of the tab tree, sales were 14.1 million, up 0.3 per cent year-on-year. As a result market share more than halved from 58.2 per cent to 27.4 per cent.

Tim Coulling, senior analyst at Canalys, said Apple's "ageing portfolio", new devices were launched after the quarter ended and these additions were "overdue".

"The tablet market develops so fast that a year ago is a long time," he told us. "Android has got better on entry level tablets, we have seen that market explode but Apple stood still with unit shipments and lost share."

He said that a year ago the "tide had started to turn" as vendors realised they needed to slash costs to be competitive and upsell customers to higher-end devices – their latter efforts have been a boon for Samsung.

In the low-end Android space, product margins are in the low-single digits - the stuff of nightmare for Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Korean chaebol Samsung saw Q3 sales shoot 2.6 times to 9.5 million units, handing it a market share of 18.5 per cent versus the 10.9 per cent it held a year ago. It picked up share in the 10-inch-and-above tablet bracket, where Apple's kit was greying.

Sneaking into third for the first time is PC-maker Lenovo, on the back of 2.3 million shipments, 27 per cent of which were in Greater China. It also did well in Latin America, where it acquired CCE. It sold just 439,000 tabs in the same period a year ago. Market share hit 4.5 per cent.

The Chocolate Factory, AKA Google, slumped to 3.6 per cent market versus the 6.2 per cent it held a year ago as sales grew 24 per cent to 1.85 million tabs, much slower than the market average.

Coulling said Google is not gunning for market and much like Microsoft is using the Nexus 7 as a design reference point for its operating system.

Asus, which makes the Nexus 7 and therefore could actually stake a claim to being the third largest maker of slabs, grew 96.1 per cent to 1.7 million tabs, giving it a market share of 3.3 per cent.

Hidden among the rest was Microsoft Surface, which found a home with 850,000 users (60 per cent Pro and 40 per cent RT) versus 300,000 last quarter. Market share grew to 1.65 per cent compared to 0.89 per cent.

This was driven by a lot of deals where the price of RT was slashed, and expansion of the Pro was due to it being rolled out in more countries and through channel partners.

Looking ahead, tab sales are overtaking those of notebooks, whereas they were "level pegging" in Q3, said Canalys. PC buyers in the festive season are clearly opting for a fondler. ®

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