The race for the tablet market has become a full-blown sprint. The intense competition will be highlighted on Tuesday, as Apple Inc, Nokia and Microsoft each introduce new tablets.
Those devices will be competing for consumer attention against several others recently released by other tech heavyweights, including Amazon, Google and Samsung Electronics.
The stakes are high, and getting higher, as demand for tablets has exploded in the last few years. About 120 million tablets were shipped in 2012, nearly seven times as many as in 2010, when the Apple iPad was first released and generated wide interest, according to Gartner, a market research company.
“Getting on an airplane it’s amazing the number of iPads that you now see that used to be either notebooks or portable DVD players,” along with smaller tablets and e-book readers that are replacing books and magazines, said Ross Rubin, an independent analyst for Reticle Research.
Apple has maintained a clear lead, but with the tablet offerings from manufacturers almost as abundant as those for smartphones, the market has become more fractured.
In the second quarter, iPads had the largest share of the worldwide tablet market, with 32%, according to IDC. Samsung, the No. 2 tablet maker, is quickly gaining traction, with 18% of the market in the second quarter, up from 7.6% in the period a year earlier.
Apple is expected to announce significantly upgraded versions of its iPad and iPad Mini devices on Tuesday. The iPad Mini is expected to have a higher-resolution display, while the bigger iPad is expected to have a slimmer design, weighing about a pound. Both iPads will also most likely get Apple’s new processors, but not the fingerprint sensor that is in the latest high-end iPhone.
On the same day, Microsoft will release new versions of its Surface tablets. Nokia, the mobile device maker Microsoft is in the process of buying much of, is expected to introduce a new tablet in Abu Dhabi.
Rubin said each manufacturer had developed slightly different approaches with tablets. Microsoft, for example, is largely going after professionals by offering tablets that double as PCs. Samsung sells a large variety of tablets, some that include a stylus for drawing and taking notes, to cater to different professions and interests. And Apple markets its iPads as versatile devices that can be used for both work and play.
Amazon offers low-priced tablets to get people to buy content from its stores — one of several less