Would-be rivals to Apple's iPad have more of a chance in Europe than they do in the United States, but they need to cut prices fast to grasp the opportunity, IT research firm Forrester said on Tuesday.
Apple's relatively small retail presence in Europe — with 52 stores compared with 238 in the United States — offers a chance to the likes of Samsung, Acer and Research in Motion, Forrester said.
But their prices cannot yet compete with Apple, which has far larger scale in the tablet market and an efficient supply chain. Forrester said emerging challengers from China and Taiwan would likely step in soon with cheaper offerings.
"There is this opportunity for iPad challengers, but the competition is very fragmented. Competing with Apple will require a different approach from what we've seen so far," said analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, the author of the Forrester report.
Apple still has the tablet computer market almost to itself after launching the iPad a year and a half ago. It has sold close to 30 million iPads, whose prices start at about $500.
Forrester expects Apple to sell 80 percent of all consumer tablets in the United States and 70 percent in Europe this year.
It expects 2011 worldwide tablet sales to reach 48 million units, with half of those sold in the United States, 30 percent in Europe, 15 percent in Asia and 5 percent in Latin America.
Epps said local content and good retail outlets, along with lower prices, were essential to succeed against Apple.
"A competitor to Apple would have to put together the right content, the right price and the right channel strategy. There isn't anyone that has all three," she said.
Tablets are on sale in Europe from Acer, Archos, Asus, HP, Motorola, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, Samsung and Toshiba.
Dell has not launched its new, 10-inch Streak tabloid in Europe or North America yet but is concentrating on China, where it is number two behind Lenovo and distributes its products through 10,000 retail outlets.
"Manufacturers, retailers and operators we spoke with all commented on the failure of the first 7-inch tablets that attempted to compete with the iPad," Forrester wrote.
"The newer generation of iPad challengers, such as the 10-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Acer Iconia Tab, are getting better reception, but they're still at a disadvantage to Apple in terms of channel strategy."
Forrester surveyed almost 14,000 online adult consumers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Britain, and also interviewed product strategists from manufacturers, telecommunications operators and retailers.
Between 2 percent and 7 percent of the consumers surveyed, depending on the country, said they owned a tablet, and a further 10 percent to 14 percent said they were interested in buying one.
Spain had the highest ownership and France the lowest, while Germans were most interested in buying a tablet. In Britain, where Apple has 30 of its European stores, ownership was relatively low at 3 percent.