Gartner’s Tablet Outlook: Rosy Picture For The iPad

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The counterpoint to last week’s data from Gartner that spelled out near and long-term victory for Android: in tablets, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) rules today, tomorrow, and next week.

Although there has been a rush of tablets running Android, iOS is still poised to retain nearly 69 percent of the tablet market in 2011.

That figure is down some 15 percent from Apple’s 2010 share of around 84 percent, but in 2012, Apple’s share will go down only by five points to 63.5 percent, project the analysts. And by 2015, even though other competitors will eat into that share even more, Apple will still be the biggest player in tablets, with a 47 percent share of the “media tablet” market — that is, devices with touchscreen interfaces are mainly designed for media consumption.

Why is Android dominating more in handsets than it is in tablets? One issue that comes up is the recent move by Google (NSDQ: GOOG) to control the tablet-intended Honeycomb OS source code more carefully than it has controlled previous iterations of Android.

That is having a knock-on effect in terms of how many Honeycomb-based tablet models get produced, and that, says Gartner, is keeping both Android tablet volumes and average selling prices in check.

Sounds like a fair-enough conclusion, if you take as your starting point Gartner’s prognosis on smartphones: in mobile handsets Gartner believes the sheer number of Android models, and subsequent cheap prices, will keep Android as the dominating smartphone OS.

But that doesn’t give a good enough explanation for why the Android/Honeycomb devices that are due out this year (and counting the Xoom that is shipping already), which are priced close to the iPad and have comparable and sometimes better specs, aren’t providing more competition against the iPad — especially since Gartner also thinks that people will be interested in getting tablets using the same OS as their handsets, and Android, it believes, will dominate in the latter category.

Apple’s continuing success could be partly due to the content ecosystem around Android devices: Android/Honeycomb-optimised apps in the market have been estimated at anywhere between 50 and 100, compared to iPad’s 65,000 (the number released by Steve Jobs in March). Another major issue, also not covered, is the fact that perhaps Apple is still winning in the user experience stakes.

Ultimately, if this sounds like it’s an exclusively Google and Apple story, that’s because it pretty much is, according to Gartner. The RIM-made Playbook seems to be the only one of the lot of others that even comes within striking distance in terms of market share by 2015, with a 10 percent share of the market. Next biggest is HP’s WebOS with a measly three percent. Those are tough numbers for devices that haven’t even gone on sale yet.

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