Gartner Predicts iPad Sales Will Dominate Android for at Least Four More Years

Paul Lilly

Tablet sales are expected to reach 118.9 million units by the end of the year, a nearly two-fold increase (98 percent) from 60 million units in 2011, market research firm Gartner predicts. It's no surprise that Apple's iPad leads the way and, if Gartner's crystal ball is in proper alignment, the iOS platform will account for more than 61 percent of worldwide tablet sales by the end of 2012. That too isn't shocking. But would you have guessed that Android will still be chasing iOS through 2016, and perhaps longer?

It wasn't all that long ago when iOS dominated smartphone sales, but it took Android less than three years to skip ahead after it was introduced in 2008. Android's big advantage, as far as market penetration goes, is that numerous carriers and hardware manufacturers are invested in the platform, whereas Apple is the only one that builds and sells iOS devices, and for awhile the iPhone was only available at AT&T. For the most part, the same advantages now apply to the tablet market, so why is it taking Android so long to catch up?

"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," said Carolina Milanesi , research vice president at Gartner. "As vendors struggled to compete on price and differentiate enough on either the hardware or ecosystem, inventories were built and only 60 million units actually reached the hands of consumers across the world. The situation has not improved in early 2012, when the arrival of the new iPad has reset the benchmark for the product to beat."

"It appears that this year competitors have waited to see what Apple would bring out — because there were very few announcements of new media tablets at either the Consumer Electronics Show or Mobile World Congress. Many vendors will wait for Windows 8 to be ready and will try to enter the market with a dual-platform approach, hoping that the Microsoft brand could help them in both the enterprise and consumer markets."

Perhaps that strategy will pay off. Gartner believes enterprise sales of media tables will account for roughly 35 percent of sales in 2015, though IT departments won't necessarily being pushing for Windows 8 tablets. According to Gartner, Windows 8 will only account for 11.8 percent of tablet sales by the end of 2016.

As for Android, Gartner analysts pegged the main issue as being "the lack of applications that are dedicated to tablets and therefore take advantage of their capabilities." In other words, it's the same old song (price) and dance (fragmentation/apps).

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