Sales of tablet computers this year are predicted to nearly double last year’s, with Apple’s iPad clearly in place as the lead dog, according to a new market forecast. Android devices, though only posting half as many sales, are gaining traction in the market and are predicted to run a strong second for the year. Windows 8 tablets, which are Microsoft's late entry in the tablet field, will have a shot at becoming the darling of IT departments, but are not predicted to be a significant factor in the market when they are introduced later this year.
Total tablet sales in 2012 are forecast to hit 118.9 million, a 98 percent increase from 2011 sales of 60 million units, according to Gartner, a research company.
Apple's iOS continues to be the dominant media tablet operating system and is projected by Gartner to account for 61.4 percent of worldwide media tablet sales this year. Android tablets will capture the bulk of the remaining market, accounting for 31.9 percent of media tablet sales in 2012.
Gartner analysts said the main issue with Android tablets has been the lack of applications that are dedicated to tablets and therefore are able to take advantage of their capabilities. Gartner's consumer survey data shows that consumers are running many of their apps on their mobile phones and their tablets.
Microsoft tablets are projected to account for 4.1 percent of total media tablet sales this year, and grow to 11.8 percent of tablet sales by the end of 2016, Gartner said. Windows 8 is Microsoft's official entrant into the media tablet market.
Corporate sales of media tablets will account for about 35 percent of total tablets sold in 2015, according to Gartner. Though these sales will not be clearly defined as enterprise purchases, Gartner expects companies to allow tablets as part of their bring your own device (BYOD[s1] ) program. More of these tablets will be owned by consumers who use them at work.
This may be Microsoft's hope for returning to its glory days.
"IT departments will see Windows 8 as the opportunity to deploy tablets on an OS that is familiar to them and with devices offered by many enterprise-class suppliers," said Carolina Milanesi, a research vice president at Gartner. "This means that we see Windows 8 as a strong IT-supplied offering more so than an OS with a strong consumer appeal."
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, Milanesi said.
"This is exactly the same trend that vendors such as RIM had to face in the smartphone market," she said. "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."
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