With the release of the new iPad last month, Apple shows no sign of loosening its iron grip on the tablet market for years to come. A new Gartner forecast projects the iPad will continue to dominate the category, with a 61.4% share of the global tablet market this year, based on sales of nearly 73 million units. That figure will more than double to 170 million units by 2016, or 46% of the tablet market.
Gartner predicts overall tablet sales in 2012 will nearly double to 118.9 million units in 2012 from 60 million last year. Android-based tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Amazon’s Kindle Fire, will more than double sales to 37.9 million from 17.3 million, or almost 32% share of the tablet market.
Trailing far behind the iPad and Android will be Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows 8 tablet, expected to end up with just 4.1% of tablet sales by the end of 2012.
"Despite PC vendors and phone manufacturers wanting a piece of the pie and launching themselves into the media tablet market, so far, we have seen very limited success outside of Apple with its iPad," stated Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. She added that the recent launch of the new iPad, boasting a sharper screen and faster processor, suggests that things will not get any easier for competitors this year.
Smaller, cheaper rivals like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, which launched during the holiday season, had promising debuts but don’t pose an immediate threat to the iPad’s supremacy.
The Windows 8 tablet, expected to roll out later this year, will not upend the market either. But Gartner believes the Microsoft device could get a boost from the corporate market. "IT departments will see Windows 8 as the opportunity to deploy tablets on an OS that is familiar to them and with devices offered by many enterprise-class suppliers," said Milanesi. "This means that we see Windows 8 as a strong IT-supplied offering more so than an OS with a strong consumer appeal."
The research firm expects the Windows 8 tablet’s share to reach almost 12% by 2016.
Gartner forecasts enterprise sales of media tablets will account for about 35% of total tablet sales sold in 2015. But these sales will not be clearly defined as traditional corporate purchases, with employees being able to get them through buy-your-own-device programs. That means that any manufacturers focused on the enterprise market will have to make sure their tablets appeal to consumers as well.
BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion failed to appeal to either market last year with its release of the PlayBook tablet. The QNX platform that powers the PlayBook is only expected to capture about 2% of the tablet market this year. One major hurdle for RIM and other iPad challengers is the relative dearth of apps they offer compared to the Apple device, which has more than 200,000.
Android too has been hobbled by the lack of tablet apps. Still, the Google platform is expected to gain ground on the iPad in the next four years, claiming about 37% share by 2016. That would leave it seven percentage points behind the iPad compared to a projected 30 points this year.