The iPad will continue to lead the tablet space for at least the next four years, positioning Apple perfectly to reap the benefits of a six-fold increase in the size of the market, according to technology industry analysts Gartner.
Forecasts from the company show the tablet market increasing 98% this year, from 60 million to almost 119 million, while iPad sales will increase from 40 million to 73 million.
This will be driven by the release of the new iPad - which sold 3 million units in just its first weekend on the market - as well as the price drop of the older iPad 2.
Sales of Android tablets will more than double, from 17 million to just under 38 million, while a new entrant, an as yet unconfirmed tablet or tablets running Microsoft’s Windows 8, could claim nearly 5 million sales, depending on release dates and what sort of specs are on offer.
By 2016, the market will have ballooned to around 370 million units, Gartner forecasts, with Apple claiming 46%, Android 37%, and Microsoft 12%.
Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi says the popularity of Android-based smartphones will eventually drive more people to tablets running the same operating system, particularly in Asian markets where brand strength is not as significant a driver as price. Google and manufacturing partners such as Samsung could also help drive uptake by subsidising app development to compete with the huge array of apps in the iOS app store.
As for Microsoft, Milanesi says familiarity with Windows could help the company win customers for its new platform, provided Microsoft gets the user experience right.
Can the iPad can really stay on top for four more years? Or will it be up there for longer? Post your comments below.