Tablet Sales Continue to Surge

Despite the recent high-profile failure of HP's tablet computer in the marketplace, sales of touch tablets overall continue to grow at a healthy clip, a trend that may yield some surprising results in years to come, according to a new report.

Worldwide, sales of tablets are projected to jump 261.4 percent in 2011 over 2010 -- selling a total of 63.6 million units, up from 17.6 million last year, says the report from analyst firm Gartner released this week.

As the market becomes more competitive and crowded, however, sales shifts are also starting to impact Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) previously unassailable leadership position with its iPad. Gartner forecasts that iPad will account for 73.4 percent of global tablet sales in 2011, down from 83 percent in 2010.

"We expect Apple to maintain a market share lead throughout our forecast period by commanding more than 50 percent of the market until 2014,” Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android-based tablets are on track to sell some 11 million units this year -- 17.3 percent of the overall market, up from 14.3 percent in 2010.

However, that growth was slower than Gartner had initially predicted so the new forecast was 28 percent lower for the year than it had expected last quarter. The firm sees an upside coming in the fourth quarter when Google rolls out its next release, though.

"Google will address the fragmentation of Android across smartphone and tablet form factors within the next Android release, known as 'Ice Cream Sandwich,' which we expect to see in the fourth quarter of 2011," Milanesi said. "Android can count on strong support from key OEMs, has a sizeable developer community, and its smartphones application ecosystem is second only to Apple'," she added.

However, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 8, while not a presence on the market share charts today due to its lack of an offering, may find its way into third-place in tablet operating systems in 2015, with as many as 34.4 million units, displacing Research in Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) QNX current third-place standing.

By the end of 2015, Gartner sees Apple's iOS as the leader with 148.7 million units sold that year, followed by Android with 116.4 million. In fourth place, the firm is projecting QNX sales of 26.1 million.


Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.