Gartner forecasts that global tablet sales will rise 261.4 percent year over year, to 63.6 million units in 2011 -- and with Apple accounting for 73.4 percent of the total by shipping 46.7 million iPad units.
Moreover, Android OS tablets are expected to account for 17.3 percent of the remaining sales this year. No other platform is projected to grab more than a 5 percent share of the market in 2011, the firm's analysts said.
Looking ahead to 2012, Gartner expects Apple to capture a 66.7 percent market share by shipping 69 million iPads. By comparison, Android tablet shipments are forecast to reach 22.8 million unit shipments and a 22 percent market share next year.
Gartner also expects continuing strong growth for tablet shipments through 2015, when total sales are forecast to reach 326.3 million units -- and with Apple continuing to hold in excess of a 50 percent market share until 2014.
"This is because Apple delivers a superior and unified user experience across its hardware, software and services," said Gartner research Vice President Carolina Milanesi. "Unless competitors can respond with a similar approach, challenges to Apple's position will be minimal."
Struggling To Meet Apple's Pricing
Hitting the same sweet spot as Apple -- where quality, performance and pricing converge -- has been a major challenge for Apple's rivals.
"Apple had the foresight to create this market and in doing that planned for it as far as component supplies such as memory and screen," Milanesi said. "This allowed Apple 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."
By contrast, consumer demand for Android-based tablets has been constrained to date by the limited availability of compatible applications, Android's weak user interface and high prices. "Most of Apple's competitors are struggling to meet Apple's prices without considerably sacrificing margins," said Roberta Cozza, a principal analyst at Gartner.
Screen quality and processing power are the two hardware features that other tablet vendors cannot afford to compromise on, Cozza noted. "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," Cozza advised. (continued...)
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