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Apple’s iPad will reign until 2015, study claims

by Phil Hornshaw

A new study suggests that the iPad will continue to dominate the tablet market – but only until Android gets its act together and substantially saturates the market.

The projection comes from forecasts by market research from Informa Telecoms & Media by way of a story from Mashable. The firm believes that Apple (AAPL) will have a firm grip on the tablet market until about 2015, when it will really start to lose ground to Android tablets.

Right now, Informa estimates that Apple holds better than 75 percent of the U.S. tablet market and there’s little out there that can really touch it. Android tabs have struggled to find a niche or to make a dent in the iPad’s war machine, and Apple announced recently that it sold 9.25 million iPads in the second quarter of 2011. Those numbers helped to set more revenue records for the company.

But Informa thinks that the control of the iPad can only last for so long, especially because Android tabs offer what Apple can’t: diversity of choice and price. Apple’s iPad excels because it has lots of apps but customers don’t get many options as far as device customization. That allows Apple to keep things universal between the iPad and its other devices running on its iOS platform, making it easy to scale up iPhone apps to the iPad. But what if a user wants a 7-inch tablet? Or prefers a widescreen video viewing area? Apple doesn’t currently provide options such as those, and that’s to say nothing of its tightly controlled app and software ecosystem.

Meanwhile, Android tablets are coming fast and furious, and Informa expects them to outpace the iPad in technical performance over the next five years. Apple’s market outlook is good in the study, expanding from fewer than 20 million units sold in 2010 to more than 230 million in 2015, but Apple’s share of the market will have dropped from that 75 percent to 38 by that time. Informa thinks it’ll take another year for Android tabs to really start outselling iPads, though.

As Mashable points out, Informa’s analysis isn’t shared by everyone. Another analysis firm, Gartner, expects Android to start pushing back against the iPad’s dominance, but still thinks Apple will lead the way in tablets by 2015 – it put the iPad at about 45 percent of market share and Android hovering around 38 percent in an April study.

It’s hard to really analyze projections like this because there are so many factors to take into account, but as it stands today, the iPad is the dominant tablet maker because it really provides a clean and powerful user experience to its customers. Apple likes to boast about the ludicrous number of apps in its App Store, and many of those – more than 90,000 – are specifically designed just for the iPad. Android continues to lag behind in this department, and customers picking up an Android tab today will find serious gaps in features such as Netflix, Hulu and a wealth of games that iPad owners are readily enjoying.

Still, it seems foolish to think that Android will never be able to compete against the iPad just because it struggles to do so now. But with rumors that an iPad 3 is already on the horizon and may make it to store shelves before winter, it’s hard to be optimistic about Android tablets four years down the line.