It's only a matter of time before Android overtakes iOS in the tablet space.
The open source nature of Android is perhaps a double edged sword, depending on how you look at the situation. On one hand, fragmentation is a sometimes annoying byproduct of having so many different device makers putting their own spin on the operating system, which is why Android 2.3.x (Gingerbread) is still the most popular version of Android to date. On the other hand, it's the very reason why Android's market share is so much higher than Apple's iOS platform. The one exception is tablets, but given enough time, it's inevitable Android slates will outnumber the iPad.
According to the latest data by International Data Corporation (IDC), Android tablet shipments will outnumber the iPad by the end of 2013. This is primarily due to the popularity of sub 8-inch tablets, which are less expensive than slates measuring in the neighborhood of 10 inches.
"One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below 8 inches in screen size. And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond," said Jitesh Ubrani, Research Analyst for IDC's Tablet Tracker. "Vendors are moving quickly to compete in this space as consumers realize that these small devices are often more ideal than larger tablets for their daily consumption habits."
This demand is fueling Android's growth in the tablet sector. IDC expects Android tablets to peak at 48.8 percent market share in 2013, up from a previous forecast of 41.5 percent, while iOS (iPad) is expected to drop from 51 percent to 46 percent.
Looking longer term, IDC says that by the end of 2017 Android will account for 46 percent of all tablets, versus iOS at 43.5 percent. Windows (7.4 percent) and Windows RT (2.7 percent) will pick up the scraps.