It’s boom times ahead for tablet vendors, particularly Apple.
The latest Gartner research forecasts 118.9 million tablets will be sold this year, a 98% increase from last year’s sales of 60 million units. And it’s all good news for Apple. Gartner projects that Apple’s iPad will continue to be the dominant media tablet, accounting for 61.4% of worldwide sales to end users in 2012.
In fact, in Gartner’s complete forecast of media tablets by operating system, Apple’s iOS leads the pack right through 2016 when it trumps its closest competitor Android (170 million to 138 million in sales respectively). Microsoft, which is expected to release Windows 8 for tablets this fall, remains a distant third in 2016 by Gartner’s reckoning with 44 million in sales.
By 2015 Gartner says it expects enterprise sales of media tablets to be about 35% of total tablet sales. But the research firm also notes enterprise sales are becoming increasingly difficult to define because of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend that will see a growing number of consumers allowed to use their personal devices at work.
"This poses a big threat to vendors that thought about focusing on the enterprise market who will now have to become appealing to consumers as well," said Carolina Milanesi, research VP at Gartner. "This is exactly the same trend that vendors such as RIM had to face in the smartphone market. The difference here is that tablets have been created for consumers first and then relied on an ecosystem of apps and services that make them more manageable in the enterprise.”
But Milanesi said Microsoft stands to benefit when IT is involved in tablet purchases, assuming Windows 8 and the tablets offered by the software giant’s hardware partners are well received.
Still, Gartner doesn’t expect Apple to face serious significant competition for years. Milanesi said the arrival of the new iPad “has reset the benchmark for the product to beat."
David Willis, a Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst, said the iPad has changed people’s perception of the tablet as being just another type of a device like a Windows PC in a different form factor.
“What it did is introduce a new design point for IT, a new design point for applications and opened up a lot of new areas where computing was just impractical before,” said Willis.
Gartner’s report is titled: "iPad and Beyond: The Future of the Tablet Market.”