iPads dominate tablet sales with more than 95 percent market share

by Phil Hornshaw

Apple (AAPL) sold 4.19 million iPads between July and September, which gave the company 95 percent of the total tablet computing market during the third quarter of 2010, according to market research company Strategy Analytics.

That is a lot of iPads, considering only 4.4 million tablets were sold around the world. But there also aren’t a lot of formidable competitors to the iPad (yet), and especially not many running Google’s (GOOG) Android OS -- only 2.3 percent of tablets sold in 2010 so far run Android. But that should change with Samsung’s (005930.KS) Galaxy Tab hitting the market later this month. In addition, RIM (RIMM) is prepping its Playbook tab to hit shelves next year.

As is the case with smartphones, while Apple is king right now, the company is no longer the only game in town. Analysts expect things to change as tablets running Android start to flood the market. It’s basically the same strategy we’ve seen in the smartphone market -- a variety of phones running Android on a variety of different 3G carriers, which will leave consumers looking for an alternative to the iPad with lots of options.

This revolution probably won’t be televised, but it should be viewable on a 9.7 inch screen.

Speaking of smartphones...

The Nielsen Company reported today that smartphones made up 28 percent of the total worldwide cell phone market in third quarter 2010, up three percentage points from last quarter.

And smartphones are continuing to grow in popularity. During the third quarter, of all the customers looking for new phones, 41 percent of those chose to go for smartphones. That’s up from 35 percent only one quarter earlier.

It’ll be interesting to see if the market battle over smartphones translates as easily to tablets as analysts believe. Smartphones are one thing, and the market battle between Apple, Google, RIM and others has each phone provider scrambling to find a way to cut into the share of the others.

Tablets, of course, aren’t really the same as smartphones. Where phones that carry a lot of functions can be a useful supplement to other computers, tablets in many cases replace them. This inconvenient truth might keep the market from really taking off the way phones have. And if that’s the case, it might be harder for Android to make inroads into Apple’s massive market share dominance.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens when more tabs start hitting the market. Right now, even Galaxy is far from being an equal competitor with iPad. How things might be different when we see tabs with bigger screens and more features remains to be seen, however.