A near-record 81 per cent of owners of Apple's newest iPad said that they were "very satisfied" with the tablet in a survey conducted by a market research firm last month.
Noting that "Apple sets the bar," ChangeWave Research posted results today from a poll of more than 2,900 U.S. consumers that illustrated the Cupertino, Calif. company's lock on the current tablet market.
Along with the one in five who agreed that they were very satisfied, another 15% said that they were "somewhat satisfied," putting the total satisfaction rating for the March version of the iPad at 96%.
Those numbers were slightly lower than those from March when ChangeWave polled new iPad owners. Then, 82% said they were very satisfied, while an additional 16% said they were somewhat satisfied.
Apple's earlier-generation iPad 2, which the company continues to sell in a 16GB Wi-Fi configuration for $399 and a 3G model for $499, reaped a 71% very satisfied result, with another 26% of owners saying that they were somewhat satisfied.
Rivals were again also-rans in ChangeWave's consumer satisfaction survey.
The nearest iPad competitor, Samsung's Galaxy Tab -- an Android-powered tablet that comes in multiple screen sizes -- garnered 46% very satisfied and 41% somewhat satisfied. Amazon's Kindle Fire, last year's hot tablet whose sales have fallen dramatically since, rated 41% very satisfied, with another 53% respondents saying they were somewhat satisfied.
Paul Carton, ChangeWave's research director, pointed out the plummet of the Fire's satisfaction score since the 7-in. tablet debuted last November. "Amazon's 'very satisfied' rating has declined by 15 percentage points since our February 2012 survey -- a downward trend they'll need to overcome in order to regain their previous firm footing in the tablet market," Carton wrote in a blog post today.
According to IDC, Amazon sold 4.8 million Kindle Fires in the fourth quarter of 2011, capturing 16.8% of the overall tablet market. But its share swooned during 2012's first three months, falling to just over 4%.
Apple's dominance will continue and rivals will struggle, Carton asserted, citing other data from the May survey.
Of the 7% of those polled who said they planned to purchase a tablet in the next 90 days, 73% reported that they would buy an iPad.
The Fire and Galaxy Tab were tapped by 8% and 6%, respectively, as their intended tablet purchase. No other manufacturer collected more than 3% of the vote.
The decline of the Fire caught Carton's eye.
"It's been more than two months since the new iPad release and Amazon is still floundering [and is] nowhere near the levels reached at the time of its launch," said Carton, referring to the 22% who had said they intended to buy the Kindle Fire last November, and the slide to just 7% in March and the minor rebound to 8% last month.
Carton claimed that satisfaction scores are strongly predictive of future purchase plans -- the higher the former by current owners, the higher the latter by potential buyers -- as he noted the Fire's weakness in both.
The iPad's "very satisfied" return of 73% was somewhat off ChangeWave's results in March, but significantly higher than when the approval questions were asked last November, before the new model was unveiled.
"[This] is a clear sign that Apple's massive domination of the market is continuing going forward," said Carton.
Others have echoed that.
IDC analysts, for example, have said that Apple "will sit comfortably on the top for now," even in the face of the looming launch of Windows 8- and Windows RT-powered tablets from a host of OEMs.
Today, Tom Mainelli of IDC pegged the probable price of Windows RT tablets at $500 to $700, too high to compete with the iPad, which starts at $500. "[It] feels like [Windows RT tablets] a non-starter," Mainelli told Computerworld.
ChangeWave did not put Windows 8 or Windows RT tablets on its May survey for the simple fact that there are none yet available. Few OEMs have even shown possible products, and none has put a price tag to their wares.
Microsoft has not yet announced an on-sale date for Windows 8, or said when tablets running that more traditional operating system -- or the more radical Windows RT designed to run on hardware powered by processors from the ARM architecture -- will be available.
Most experts, however, assume that the debut of Windows 8, Windows RT and mobile devices running the operating systems will hit shelves in the fourth quarter, perhaps as early as October.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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