updated 12:10 pm EDT, Tue April 10, 2012
Gartner sees iPad still leading in four years
Apple will stay out in front of the tablet market for at least the next four years, Gartner predicted in a long-term estimate on Tuesday. The analyst group saw sales for the entire tablet market for 2012 nearly doubling, up 98 percent to 118.9 million, with Apple still in the clear majority at 73 million. While the gap would close, Apple would keep the largest piece of the market even until 2016.
Android would close much of the distance, but at a predicted 37.9 million sales in 2012 and 137.7 million in 2016, Google would not get the majority that many had incorrectly assumed would carry over from smartphones. Research VP Carolina Milanesi noted that her agency was tracking real sales and that the 60 million reflected an overstock as many Android makers, as well as RIM, couldn't present a compelling case to get something beyond an iPad.
"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," she said. "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... The situation has not improved in early 2012, when the arrival of the new iPad has reset the benchmark for the product to beat."
Despite Google mobile VP Andy Rubin's insistence to the contrary, a lack of tablet-specific apps was hurting Android and giving Apple a clear edge. Rubin has argued that any tablet-aware apps should be universal and has so far downplayed any attempt to make finding tablet-native apps easier in Google Play.
Microsoft's own hopes for mirroring its lead in PCs through Windows 8 tablets would also be dashed. Windows 8's launch in the fall was estimated to get it 4.9 million sales in 2012, but it would still represent just 43.6 million devices in 2016, or less than a third of what the iPad and Android would manage. RIM would grow, but its QNX-based BlackBerry PlayBook would be eclipsed in 2012 by Windows 8 and net just 17.8 million sales five years after launch.
Most of Microsoft's buyers would be corporate customers who felt compelled to stick to an OS "familiar to them." Only 35 percent of tablets moved in 2015 would be meant for enterprise, however. Similar to the smartphone world, Milanesi said, Microsoft and RIM faced the greatest danger as their overdependence on the enterprise left them unprepared for a tablet market focused on everyday users. The iPad was making inroads as it was getting apps and services to make it fit, giving workers the usability they wanted as well as the previously exclusive security features.