Apple will keep ruling the tablet market, says Gartner

Anyone hoping for a scrappy underdog to knock the iPad off its perch as the world’s top tablet will have to wait a long time, says analyst firm Gartner.

Despite the flood of new competitors entering the tablet market every quarter, Gartner projects the iPad will hold more than two-thirds of the global tablet market in 2012 and will still hold about 45 per cent in 2015.

“Apple delivers a superior and unified user experience across its hardware, software and services,” says Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. “Unless competitors can respond with a similar approach, challenges to Apple’s position will be minimal.”

So do any of the iPad’s competitors have a prayer of winning market share? In the long run Gartner projects that they do. Android-based tablets will experience the most success in the coming years as Gartner projects their share of the market will steadily increase from 17 per cent this year to 22 per cent in 2012 and 36 per cent in 2015. Microsoft’s Windows-based tablets (10.5 per cent of projected market share in 2015) and Research in Motion’s QNX-based tablets (8 per cent projected share in 2015) will continue to be minor players over the next four years, says Gartner. Milanesi says that while Android-based tablets have been hurt by platform fragmentation, the upcoming “Ice Cream Sandwich” Android update will help unify the operating system across multiple devices.

“So far Android’s appeal in the tablet market has been constrained by high prices, weak user interface and limited tablet applications,” she says. “Google will address the fragmentation of Android across smartphone and tablet form factors within the next Android release. … Android can count on strong support from OEMs, has a sizeable developer community and its smartphones application ecosystem is second only to Apple’s.”

Apple’s dominance in the tablet market has been well-established and is not expected to lessen for years. In a research note released this past summer, Canaccord Genuity analyst Mike Walkley said that strong user preference for the iPad over other tablets would give Apple a majority market share in the tablet market through at least 2012.

Additionally, a survey of more than 3,000 consumers released by ChangeWave earlier this year found that 27 per cent of consumers have plans to buy a tablet, and that 82 per cent of them plan to purchase an Apple iPad. The Motorola Xoom, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook and the Samsung Galaxy Tab each accounted for less than 5 per cent of planned tablet purchases. And IDC this year released a report showing the iPad accounted for 83 per cent of all tablets shipped in 2010, while more research released by ChangeWave found that the iPad dominated corporate purchasing plans, as more than three-quarters of the businesses that planned on buying tablets reported plans to buy the iPad.

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