The expected announcement of Apple's iPad 3 should further cement the manufacturer's market-leading position in selling tablets, despite increasing competition, analysts have claimed.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is expected to unveil the device this evening (7 March), with rumours circulating he could also announce the manufacturer's move into streaming television.
Ovum principal analyst Adam Leach said he expects more intense competition among tablets through 2012. He identified Google and Microsoft as key companies hoping to break into the tablet market, citing their recent OS upgrades with Ice Cream Sandwich and Windows 8. He said: 'It will take time for Android 4.0 and Windows 8-based products to come to market, and with an expected launch of the next iteration of iPad, Apple will retain its market-leading position through 2012. Ovum expects the market for tablet and other mobile internet devices to exceed 235 million units by 2016.'
Strategy Analytics director Neil Mawston said the iPad 3 would continue to be the benchmark for tablet devices. He said: 'Whatever they do will set the agenda for the year. I think we will see a brighter screen, thinner form factor and an LTE device for the US market as well as possible voice recognition.'
He said Apple's biggest rival in the tablet space continues to be Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook, both of which are not yet available in the UK. He said the second tier behind them was filled by Samsung and Acer. Mawston added: 'Everyone else is competing for the leftover space.'
One possibility for Apple could be the release of a seven-inch iPad to directly compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire. However, Mawston said there was only a slight chance of this happening because of the manufacturer's reluctance to compete on price. He said: 'I expect the price of the iPad 2 will come down for it to compete as a mid-tier device against the likes of Acer, Samsung and Amazon.'
Editor: Graeme Neill