Tablet wars and their impact on web design for 2012

Jan 25th, 2012 by Max Tokman

Tablets are swiftly taking over the computer world, with devices that are convenient, user-friendly and versatile. With the addition of docking stations that can easily run tablets at home, tablets have the potential power to knock out laptops or other home computers. Tablet sales across the globe are nearing 63 million this year, according to Gartner, with more than a 260 percent rise in sales over the 17.6 million sold the previous year. Tablet sales are expected to increase to more than 326.3 million units by 2015, making them an extremely hot market to watch. And there are a lot of web designers who should be watching.

Tablets are clearly a wave that will continue to grow, develop and challenge designers. One size certainly does not fit all, nor does a prediction that standard tablet design will be possible for various devices seem to be in the near future. Designing for tablets can take many forms, but knowing which companies are expected to blossom and which are expected to wither on the vine can at least give designers a sense of what’s in store and where they should focus their time, efforts and creative energy.

Apple is going to remain at the top of the tablet barrel through 2015, according to market predictions, but that does not mean other tablets are not going to try to give iPad at least a bit of competition. Market shares for 2011 reported by Gartner gave Apple 68.7 percent of the market, followed by Android’s 19.9 percent. MeeGo weighed in with 1.1 percent, WebOS with 4 percent and QNX at 5.6 percent. The lump of other operating systems clocked in with a scant 0.6 percent of the market share.

Gartner’s 2012 report reduced Apple to 63.5 percent of the market, boosted Android to 24.4 percent and MeeGo to 1.2 percent. QNX gains a point to corner 6.6 percent while WebOS dips to 3.9 percent and the lump of other falls to 0.5 percent.

The predictions, however, fail to clearly note the location of a rising star in the tablet market, a star otherwise known as the Kindle Fire. Market predictions from Merrill Lynch estimate Kindle Fire will be only slightly below the Android in 2012 and catch up even further in 2013.

A report form iSuppli suggests Kindle Fire blazed into the No. 2 tablet slot under Apple, using the Kindle Fire OS built off an Android that was built off a smartphone. No matter, according to, Kindle Fire is already hot. Although Kindle Fire’s predicted 14 percent of the market still comes nowhere near Apple’s predicted 60-plus percent, it is burning away a chunk of the market that may have otherwise gone to Android and chipping away at Apple’s loyal customers.

Apple loyalty is expected to remain strong while it continues to hold Gartner’s predicted 47.1 percent of the market come 2015, and Android’s appeal may take it up to a predicted 38.6 percent, but Kindle Fire is not a force that is expected to be easily extinguished.

While there is no arguing tablets are sweeping the globe as the latest must-have devices, there are arguments over what to expect in term of new products.

The arguments begin with what top-dog Apple may have in store for 2012. One side argues Apple will release a high-end iPad 3 while the other predicts Apple will release a lower-priced iPad to better compete with Kindle Fire that is burning up a portion of its market share. Trefis raises the possibility of Apple releasing two new products, each geared toward a specific price range. Other predictions say Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab series will feature new releases and raise the possibility of Google releasing a tablet device.

Web designers already have a slew of various advanced tablet features for which they must design. Amazon’s Kindle Fire, for instance, requires a design that can work on the 7-inch screen with a 1024 x 600 pixel resolution at 169 ppi, multi-touch user interface with 16 million colors. Many tablets have ample storage and power, such as Kindle Fire’s space enough for 80 apps, but specifications vary greatly across the board.

Despite the wide range of size, abilities and resolution, Gartner reports the big concern will remain ensuring the users receive a rich experience based on several tablet features. These include apps, apps and more apps. Also important are intuitive user interfaces and the ability to share content among devices.

Tablets in multiple sizes with varying screen resolutions and varying functions will continue to ensure web designing for tablets will remain a very specific art geared toward individual products. The task may be a bit less overwhelming for designers that focus their efforts on the winners and ignore those Merrill Lynch expects to tank. Merrill Lynch strongly backs Amazon, Apple and Samsung, the same companies backed by Gartner and proven popular based on market shares. Those Merrill Lynch expects to head toward the graveyard are tablets produced by Acer, Asus, and Research in Motion.

Effective web designing takes skill, patience and adaptability. The rapid and continuous changes in the tablet market are certainly going to help ensure designers get plenty of the latter in the months and years to come.



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