iPad pours cold water on Kindle Fire in tablet owner survey

A near-record 81% 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 resultstoday from a poll of more than 2,900 U.S. consumers that illustratedthe 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 totalsatisfaction rating for the March version of the iPad at 96%.

Those numbers were slightly lower than those from March when ChangeWavepolled new iPad owners. Then, 82% said they were very satisfied, whilean additional 16% said they were somewhat satisfied.

Apple’s earlier-generation iPad 2, whichthe company continues to sellin a 16GB Wi-Fi configuration for $399 and a 3G model for $499, reapeda 71% very satisfied result, with another 26% of owners saying thatthey were somewhat satisfied.

Rivals were again also-rans in ChangeWave’s consumer satisfactionsurvey.

The nearest iPad competitor, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab — anAndroid-poweredtablet that comes in multiple screen sizes — garnered 46% verysatisfied and 41% somewhat satisfied. Amazon’s Kindle Fire, last year’shot tablet whose sales have fallen dramatically since, rated 41% verysatisfied, with another 53% respondents saying they were somewhatsatisfied.

Paul Carton, ChangeWave’s research director, pointed out the plummet ofthe Fire’s satisfaction score since the 7-in. tablet debuted lastNovember. “Amazon’s ‘very satisfied’ rating has declined by 15percentage points since our February 2012 survey — a downward trendthey’ll need to overcome in order to regain their previous firm footingin the tablet market,” Carton wrote in a blogpost today.

According to IDC, Amazon sold 4.8 million Kindle Fires in the fourthquarter of 2011, capturing 16.8% of the overall tablet market. But itsshare swooned during 2012’s first three months, falling to just over 4%.

Apple’s dominance will continue and rivals will struggle, Cartonasserted, citing other data from the May survey.

Of the 7% of those polled who said they planned to purchase a tablet inthe next 90 days, 73% reported that they would buy an iPad.

The Fire and Galaxy Tab were tapped by 8% and 6%, respectively, astheir intended tablet purchase. No other manufacturer collected morethan 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 Amazonis still floundering [and is] nowhere near the levels reached at thetime of its launch,” said Carton, referring to the 22% who had saidthey intended to buy the Kindle Fire last November, and theslide tojust 7% in March and the minor rebound to 8% last month.

Carton claimed that satisfaction scores are strongly predictive offuture purchase plans — the higher the former by current owners, thehigher the latter by potential buyers — as he noted the Fire’sweakness in both.

The iPad’s “very satisfied” return of 73% was somewhat off ChangeWave’sresults in March, but significantly higher than when the approvalquestions were asked last November, before the new model was unveiled.

“[This] is a clear sign that Apple’s massive domination of the marketis continuing going forward,” said Carton.

Others have echoed that.

IDC analysts, for example, have said that Apple “will sit comfortablyon the top for now,” even in the face of the looming launch of Windows8- and Windows RT-powered tablets from a host of OEMs.

Today, Tom Mainelli of IDC pegged the probable price of Windows RTtablets at $500to $700, too high to compete with the iPad, which starts at$500. “[It] feels like [Windows RT tablets] a non-starter,” Mainellitold Computerworld.

ChangeWave did not put Windows 8 or Windows RT tablets on its Maysurvey for the simple fact that there are none yet available. FewOEMs have even shown possible products, and none has put aprice tag to their wares.

Microsoft has not yet announced an on-sale date for Windows 8, or saidwhen tablets running that more traditional operating system — or themore radical Windows RT designed to run on hardware powered byprocessors from the ARM architecture — will be available.

Most experts, however, assume that the debut of Windows 8, Windows RTand mobile devices running the operating systems will hit shelves inthe fourth quarter, perhaps as early as October.

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