The iPad will gradually lose market share to rivals in the coming years, but the Apple tablet will remain the category leader through 2015, according to a new forecast.
Gartner projects the iPad's commanding 84% share of the worldwide tablet segment in 2010 will fall by nearly half over the next five years to 47%, mainly as a result of Android eating into Apple's lead. The Google platform will more than double its share over the same period from about 14% to 39%.
"Volume will be driven by support from many players, the ecosystem of applications for tablets getting more competitive, and some platform flexibility allowing lower price points," states Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner.
Despite gaining market share through the Android-based tablets like Samsung's Galaxy Tab and the Motorola Xoom, Google's decision not to open access the latest version of its mobile operating system -- dubbed Honeycomb -- will prevent fragmentation but ultimately cap growth. "This might mean that prices will drop at a slower pace than what we have seen in the smartphone market," notes Cozza.
The only other tablet platform expected to capture any meaningful share is QNX -- the operating system to be used on the forthcoming BlackBerry PlayBook from Research in Motion -- that will account for 10% of the market in 2015.
"It will take time and significant effort for RIM to attract developers and deliver a compelling ecosystem of applications and services around QNX to position it as a viable alternative to Apple or Android," according to Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.
Separate findings from market research firm Compete last week indicated that only 6% of in-market tablet buyers are considering buying the PlayBook. Gartner suggested that organizations that already mandate BlackBerry devices or stringent security requirements will be the main force driving demand for the PlayBook.
Generally, smartphone users will want to buy a tablet that runs the same OS as their phone, given their familiarity with that system and ability to share apps across devices. With their existing strength in smartphone share, that works to the benefit of both Android and iOS. It has the opposite effect on a smaller player, like webOS.
With the success of the iPad, many competitors have focused on delivering equally alluring hardware at the expense of applications, services and the overall user experience. But Gartner argues that software and services will play a bigger role than hardware features in tablets, "and the sooner vendors realize that the better chance they have to compete head-to-head with Apple."
The Gartner forecast comes as more magazine publishers are offering subscriptions on the iPad, despite Apple's unwillingness to share customer data for those sold via iTunes. Bloomberg BusinessWeek has joined other titles, including Elle, Maxim and Popular Science in selling subscriptions via the Apple tablet, according to a Wall Street Journal report.