March 15, 2012, 10:46 AM

Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble change the future of tablets

Forrester Research update: 105 million U.S. consumers will own a tablet in 2015.

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Apple Inc.’s iPad 3 goes on sale tomorrow and is sure to boost sales of the market-dominating tablet. But it’s not just the iPad that is driving more consumers to hop on the tablet bandwagon. The introductions last year of the Kindle Fire tablet from Amazon.com Inc. and the Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble Inc. are changing the tablet landscape.

And that is why Forrester Research Inc. has updated its forecast for U.S. tablet sales. By 2015, 105.1 million U.S. consumers will own a tablet, up 28% from Forrester’s previous forecast of 82.1 million.

“The big story we’ve been following since the iPad launched is the war of the platforms: How will Google and Microsoft take share from market-leading Apple, and how will Apple maintain its lead?” Sarah Rotman Epps, analyst, media services, writes on a Forrester Research blog. “Google is stealthily gaining tablet platform share—but not through Motorola, Samsung, HTC, or its other mobile or PC partners. Google is gaining thanks to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, whose tablets use a version of Android branded with their own services, not Google’s.”

Amazon.com, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, and Barnes & Noble, No. 41, have expanded the market for tablets in the U.S. by launching their tablets at significantly lower prices than the iPad, Epps adds. The base model of the iPad 3 costs $499, while the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet cost $199.

Forrester predicts the following sales of tablets—consumers buying their first tablets and consumers replacing tablets—in the years ahead: 37.9 million in 2012, 46.6 million in 2013, 53.2 million in 2014, 57.1 million in 2015 and 60.3 million in 2016.

Many consumers don’t buy tablets because of price; but many others don’t purchase a tablet because they don’t think they need it, Rotman Epps writes. This is where Apple, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble have an advantage as they offer a plethora of digital content services tied into their tablets, she writes. Manufacturers like Samsung and HTC have to establish partnerships to offer similar services.

“It’s about the services—what you can do with the device, which is why Apple, Amazon, and B&N have succeeded in the U.S. where pure hardware plays have failed,” she writes.

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