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Retailers should consider a single app strategy, expert advises.
As tablets running Google Inc.’s Android operating system have popped up during the last year, Apple Inc.’s iPad’s dominance in the market has slipped.
In the second quarter of 2010, 96% of tablets shipped by manufacturers to retailers worldwide were iPads, according to ABI Research. This was at a time when there were no Android tablets. During the second quarter of 2011, around 75% of tablets shipped worldwide were iPads and 20% were Android, the research firm says. The remaining share went to devices running HP’s WebOS (formerly Palm) and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry.
Worldwide annual tablet shipments are expected to top 120 million in 2015, the firm projects.
“It’s still a very small market; however, this year we may start to see a mass market for tablets, with annual shipments surpassing 40 million to 50 million, which is mass market for any technology,” says ABI Research mobile devices group director Jeff Orr. “The tablet won’t be quite the force you see with the smartphone, but it will be significant in its own right.”
Retailers deploying tablet apps today virtually across the board have developed iPad apps. Until recently there has been no cause to develop an app for any other tablet because the iPad owned almost the entire tablet market. But as tablets running the Android operating system gain ground, should retailers shift some of their tablet attention to Android? Not necessarily, Orr says.
“They should examine why they are designing for a particular device in the first place,” he says. “One can write an app through a common interface like HTML5, which then would be accessible across a broader range of devices.”
The up-and-coming web programming language HTML5 enables developers to create mobile web sites that are more like apps, and to create apps that require little modification to operate on a variety of mobile operating systems, Orr says. However, an HTML5-based app can’t do everything an app written specifically for Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android can, he adds.
“If a retailer is trying to write to a specific device, to understand particular components in the device like a compass or the way touch and gestures are integrated, then obviously writing to HTML5 will not address that,” he explains. “But when looking to reach the greatest possible audience, an app could be written to a common language such as HTML5.”