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iPad still the tablet of choice

But few buyers are ready to give up their PCs

Apple continues to sell iPads as fast as it can build them. Latest estimates suggest that shipments of its market-leading tablet computer could approach 45 million worldwide for the full year. And while several rival manufacturers are scrambling for a piece of this enormously lucrative pie, most are finding it hard to put a dent in the iPad’s overwhelming popularity.

And that’s not about to change, according to the results of a survey of over 1,100 U.S. consumers by private equity firm Robert W. Baird. Among respondents who were current tablet users, 93 percent said they owned an iPad. Perhaps worse for the competition, the iPad ranked even higher on the wish list of prospective tablet buyers, with 94.5 percent naming Apple’s device as a “tablet of interest.”

How far is the iPad ahead of its rivals? HP’s Touchpad was next on the list, generating interest among just 10.4% of those surveyed. Motorola’s XOOM (8.5 percent), Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 (8.3 percent), and the HTC Flyer (4.3 percent) made up the rest of the Top 5. (Some prospective buyers expressed interest in more than one tablet.)

This bad news for iPad competitors comes on the back of rumors that Best Buy and other tech retailers are sitting on large stockpiles of unsold TouchPads, despite the fact that HP recently slashed the price of the device by $100.

Despite the explosion in the tablet market – or more correctly, the iPad market – few people expect them to completely replace the PC. When asked whether they could do without a computer if they owned a tablet, only 6 percent said yes, a figure that rose to 17 percent when asked if they thought that was a possibility sometime in the future. Even among existing tablet owners, 74 percent said they still need a PC despite owning a tablet.

Even though there is a continuing need for traditional computing platforms, the PC market is not immune from iPad’s success: The survey found that 53 percent of survey correspondents would have bought a new PC if a tablet wasn’t an option.

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