Apple's iPad fends off all comers, says survey

No sign that rivals like Xoom and Galaxy Tab are making up ground among U.S. consumers

Apple's rivals have lost headway in convincing American consumers to pick their tablets over the iPad, a market researcher said today.

In a survey conducted last month, more people who said they were planning to buy a tablet in the next three month named the iPad as their likely purchase than in October 2010, when ChangeWave Research last asked the same questions.

The February poll of nearly 3,100 U.S. consumers said that of those planning to buy a tablet within 90 days, 82 per cent would pick Apple's iPad. That's a two-point increase over ChangeWave's last survey.

Motorola's Xoom , which launched in February at a price of $600 when combined with a two-year service contract with Verizon, was the top alternate to the iPad, garnering four per cent of the plan-to-purchase vote.

RIM's Playbook and Samsung's Galaxy Tab tied for third place at three per cent.

In ChangeWave's 2010 survey, the Playbook was in second place with eight per cent, nearly triple the Galaxy Tab. RIM's number may have dropped because, unlike the Xoom and Galaxy Tab, the Playbook has yet to go on sale. Recent rumors have pegged the Playbook debut for April 10.

"It remains to be seen which of these tablet devices or other new entries will be able to successfully compete," said Paul Carton, ChangeWave's vice president of research, in a description of the survey results. "Each faces an uphill battle with the refreshed iPad 2 hitting the shelves on March 11."

ChangeWave surveyed consumers last month, before Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the new iPad 2 , which officially hits Apple's retail and online stores tomorrow.

Carton sees Apple's position as nearly unassailable because of its strength in customer satisfaction.

Of the people surveyed who owned an iPad, 70 per cent said they were "very satisfied" with the tablet, while another 25 per cent checked "somewhat satisfied."

Carton called the iPad's satisfaction rating "outstanding."

However, the iPad's "very satisfied" numbers are down slightly from last year, when 72 per cent of owners selected that choice.

ChangeWave also tracked an increase in consumer interest in tablets, and evidence that money spent on the devices was being sucked away from e-readers and traditional PCs, especially laptops and netbook.

Since last October, the number of those polled who said they would buy a tablet at some future point climbed by two percentage points, Carton said.

On the cannibalization question, 26 per cent of the respondents said they'd canceled or put on hold plans to buy an e-reader after acquiring a tablet, up from 2010's 17 per cent. The jump in those saying they'd skipped purchasing a personal computer was smaller: 25 per cent said they had postponed laptop, netbook or desktop buying plans once they had a tablet, up from 19 per cent several months ago.

ChangeWave's survey results jibe with projections today by the research firm IDC, which said Apple will retain a 70-80 per cent share of the tablet market during 2011, even as the competition heats up.

IDC also forecasted that 50 million tablets will be sold this year.

Apple will kick off iPad 2 sales Friday at 1 a.m. PT through its online store, and at 5 p.m. local time at its retail outlets.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

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