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Tablet analysis: iPad to dominate for years. Or will it?

Research firm Gartner released a report on April 11 that predicts Apple’s iPad tablet will dominate the tablet market for the next several years, holding a firm grasp on the landscape till at least 2015.

Color me tickled. Who woulda thunk?

Garnter is known for doing good research and analysis, but this seems kind of like stating the obvious. Or so you would think. Apple has the benefit of being first to market, has the most sophisticated device and has 10 years of developing an ecosystem (if you count the iPad’s predecessor, the iPod, which you should) for the iPad to flourish in once it was released. See CNET’s Donald Bell's excellent analysis on that topic, “What tablets can learn from the iPod wars.”

Gartner sees Apple holding onto at least 60 percent of the market until 2015, when the amalgamation of competition – BlackBerry, Hewlett-Packard and Android/Chrome – finally are able to muster enough mindshare to topple Apple’s market share. Even at that, Gartner thinks that of any single device, Apple will still keep the lead, with 47.1 percent.

The tablet landscape in 2015, according to Gartner:

  • Apple – 47.1 percent
  • Android – 38.6 percent
  • QNX (BlackBerry) – 10 percent
  • WebOs (Palm/HP) – 3 percent
  • MeeGo – 1 percent
  • Other - 0.2 percent

It is probably a fair conclusion to make on Gartner’s side. There is a lot of talk about other tablets coming to take Apple’s milk but little in the way of actual devices on the market. The way the market will play out in all likelihood is that the fans of certain technologies will be the early adopters of certain tablets – like BlackBerry and WebOS – and Android will have multiple options available from major players like Motorola, Samsung and HTC, but cut back on access to some of the minor device makers to avoid fragmentation.

This is all supposing that tablets actually will become ubiquitous devices, a la the laptop or smart phone. The numbers that Gartner predicts are staggering, with 294 million or so tablets being sold in 2015. Yet, outside of the iPad, which is the result of Apple working a little bit of its magic once again, there is no clear necessity in the marketplace for tablet devices. Personally, I think there will be, but 294 million is a big number. There is no doubt that tablet sales will grow, especially as countries around the world develop wireless infrastructures, but it is still hard to tell if tablets will be the go-to device, the way Gartner seems to be predicting.

There are other external factors to consider as well, all hard to predict. Technological leaps by the classic scenario of “two guys working in a garage in Palo Alto, Calif.” or an Android manufacturer suddenly making a device that is so slick and so intuitive that it makes an iPad look like a fraud. I could see these things happening.

For the most part, I only keep nominal track of predictions and analysis. Deloitte said there will be 15 million tablets sold in enterprise this year. A lot of pundits decried that as being low. It may actually be very high (Gartner predicts that around 69 million tablets will be sold in 2011). It is fun to prognosticate. Sports writers do it all the time and so do market watchers. Will they be right?

How about this: Shoot me a 3-D text message from your HP SuperPad or other snazzy tablet on April 12, 2015, and we can discuss it. All 294 million of you.

Posted by Dan Rowinski on Apr 12, 2011 at 12:19 PM


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