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iPads still own the tablet market, but is Microsoft onto something big?

Apple’s been dominating the tablet scene ever since the first iPad came out. Given the record sales figures for the new iPad it’s hardly surprising that dominance is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.

Even a soaring market — sales are up 98% from 2011 — and a slew of cheap new devices such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire can’t put a dent in the Cupertino-based tech giant’s dominance.

According to tech research company Gartner, tablets running iOS are expected to account for around 61.4% of tablets sales in 2012. That share is expected to slip to around 45% by 2016, but Apple will steal be the clear market leader.

Given the number of affordable devices running Android — something that propelled it to success in the smartphone sector — it’s hardly surprising that it is Apple’s rival-in-chief. The Google-owned operating system is expected to account for 31% of tablet sales in 2012, rising to around 37% in 2016. One reason this mass device appeal might not have worked as well for tablets as it has for smartphones is because Android has very few apps that take full advantage of the larger tablet screen.

One OS that’s come out of nowhere is Microsoft. Last year there weren’t even enough tablets sold running its OS to register on Gartner’s radar. The research company reckons that close on five-million will be sold this year. Okay, that might not be so impressive (Samsung sold five-million Galaxy Notes alone). What is impressive is the prediction that it will be selling nearly 44-million by 2016. That’s big growth in anyone’s book.

Surprised? We’re not. Here at Memeburn we think Microsoft’s on the verge of becoming cool. I know, who would’ve thought it?

Gartner research vice president Carolina Milanesi also thinks Microsoft is onto something with Windows 8. She reckons that while the paucity of new tablets in the early part of 2012 was down, in part, to competitors playing a wait-and-see game with Apple, many are also waiting for the eagerly anticipated Microsoft OS:

“It appears that this year competitors have waited to see what Apple would bring out — because there were very few announcements of new media tablets at either the Consumer Electronics Show or Mobile World Congress. Many vendors will wait for Windows 8 to be ready and will try to enter the market with a dual-platform approach, hoping that the Microsoft brand could help them in both the business and consumer markets.”

She also thinks Windows 8 for tablets will be hit with big business buyers:

“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,” she said.

As it becomes more and more common for people to bring their own devices to work (BYOD), however, those business buyers will have to make sure that whatever tablet they buy – regardless of OS – doesn’t compromise the user experience.

Whoever appeals most to the business market stands to win big, as it expected to account for 35% of tablet sales by 2015.

Author | Stuart Thomas

Stuart Thomas
Stuart is the editor-in-chief of Engage Me Online. After pursuing an MA in South African literature, he spent five years reporting on the global technology scene. Intrigued by the intersection of technology and work, he joined Engage Me as the editor-in-chief. He is a passionate runner, and recently ran... More
  • Simon

    The numbers are listed in thousands as per the key, That means that MS will sell 5 MILLION tablets this year. Try getting the facts right when you publish. 

  • Sorry, these figures are completely wrong.  I have *two* Microsoft tablets myself, one purchased in 2009 and one in 2010.  They’re running Microsoft XP with Tablet extensions, and are proper Tablet (PC)s.

    I don’t have any sale figures, but Toshiba, Fujitsu, and Lenovo have all carried Tablet PC lines since around 2008.  There’s also Motion Computing, a dedicated Tablet PC manufacturer seemingly mostly targetting healthcare, who’s been producing them since 2005 or before.

  • Simon, thanks for pointing the mistake out. It has been rectified.

  • Alan, What Gartner means by that is that there weren’t enough sales to register on its radar. I have phrased it to reflect that. 

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  • Dax

    MyCast… not available yet, he’s waiting for Google’s approval :)

  • RKs

    They’re not against the Chromecast SDK. The apps use the SDK, and are entirely legal.

    The only reason the app hasn’t been released yet is because Google isn’t allowing any app that uses the SDK to be released. Yet.

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