Apple’s iPad will continue its dominance of the media tablet market well into the future, according to a report released by Gartner today.
“We expect Apple to maintain a market share lead throughout our forecast period by commanding more than 50 percent of the market until 2014,” Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, wrote in the report.
Overall, Gartner forecasts worldwide media tablet sales to end users will total 63.6 million units in 2011, a 261.4 percent increase from 2010 sales of 17.6 million units. The report forecasts media tablet sales of 326.3 million units by 2015.
Apple’s iPad is projected to account for 73.4 percent of worldwide media tablet sales in 2011, down from 83 percent share in 2010. Beyond Apple iOS and the Android operating system (OS), Gartner does not expect any other platforms to have more than 5 percent share of the tablet market in 2011.
“This is because Apple delivers a superior and unified user experience across its hardware, software and services,” wrote Milanesi. “Unless competitors can respond with a similar approach, challenges to Apple’s position will be minimal.”
Milanesi writes that Apple created the market and in doing that planned for it as far as component supplies such as memory and screen, which allowed the company to bring the iPad out at a very competitive price and no compromise in experience among the different models that offer storage and connectivity options.
Android tablets are on pace to ship 11 million units in 2011, accounting for 17.3 percent of media tablet sales. This is up only slightly from Android’s 2010 market share of 14.3 percent. Gartner’s forecast for the Android OS has been lowered by 28 percent from last quarter’s projection. The reduction would have been greater had it not been for the success of lower-end tablets in Asia, and the expectations around the launch of Amazon’s tablet.
“So far, Android’s appeal in the tablet market has been constrained by high prices, weak user interface and limited tablet applications,” Milanesi said. “Google will address the fragmentation of Android across smartphone and tablet form factors within the next Android release, known as ‘Ice Cream Sandwich,’ which we expect to see in the fourth quarter of 2011. Android can count on strong support from key OEMs, has a sizeable developer community, and its smartphones application ecosystem is second only to Apple’s.”
Gartner analysts said Research In Motion’s QNX OS is a promising platform, but it is still in the early stages of development. RIM’s main challenge will be to attract more support from application developers as the company is going through a tough period, with considerable pressure on its smartphone business.
And what about those fancy tablets showcased around the launch of Windows 8? Gartner doesn’t see that platform going anywhere either, suggesting that Microsoft’s push to use the new OS across devices could compromise usability. Moreover, the late arrival might limit its appeal, especially to consumers, as Apple and Android will be more entrenched by then.
Gartner suggests that Microsoft’s platform will find its biggest opportunities in the enterprise segment, where IT departments could benefit from smoother integration with existing Microsoft software.
As more vendors will arrive in 2012, Gartner analysts said it’s important they concentrate on delivering a rich user experience based on a strong tie between smartphones and tablets, a good set of apps, an intuitive user interface and the ability to share content easily between devices.
“Most of Apple’s competitors are struggling to meet Apple’s prices without considerably sacrificing margins. Screen quality and processing power are the two hardware features that vendors cannot afford to compromise on,” wrote Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner, in the report. “They should consider everything else ‘nice to have,’ rather than essential, in order to keep bills-of-materials costs competitive with those of the iPad.”