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Analysts say nearly 100 percent of 2010 tablet sales were iPads

by Phil Hornshaw

Here are some insane numbers for you: according to research firm Gartner, the tablet market pulled down about $9.6 billion in 2010. Apple has reported $9.566 in iPad-generated revenue for the period. That suggests that tablets other than iPad were responsible for about $34 million of that $9.6 billion.

The story, as reported by Beta News, totally detonates previous figures regarding tablet shipments from research firm IDC. That analysis put the iPad at 83 percent market share, but it seems that while Apple (AAPL) may have only shipped 83 percent of the tablets available on store shelves, almost all of the ones that actually made it down checkout lanes had “iPad” written on the box.

There were few, if any, viable tablet alternatives to the iPad in 2010, though. The Samsung (005930.KS) Galaxy Tab showed up later in the year, and shipped 2 million units in the three months it was available -- certainly not bad, considering Samsung posted a year of record revenues in 2010, but still small.

Enter the iPad 2, which is in such high demand at the moment that Apple can’t keep stores stocked. Other companies are running to catch up with the iPad 2, as evidenced by the changes Samsung has rolled out for the Galaxy Tab and the various price points from companies like Research In Motion (RIMM) on its upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook. Google (GOOG) has stepped back from the awesomeness it touted Android 3.0 Honeycomb to be, calling it “unfinished” after it appeared with some issues on the Motorola Xoom (MMI), and most of the big Honeycomb tablets won’t be available until later this year.

So Apple is poised to dominate the tablet market again, without even trying too much. As there isn’t a real, thoughtful alternative to the iPad 2, it will likely hit the projected 8 million sales in the second fiscal quarter and create an even bigger revenue disparity between iOS and Android. That is, if Apple can find a way to meet the demand of the iPad 2 in the 26 countries in which it’s now (almost) being sold.

Gartner pegs the tablet market at $29.4 billion this year, and IDC pegs the iPad to snag at least 70 percent of the market share -- $20 billion in revenue driven by the iPad 2. But since we’ve seen already that market share and actual income are two different figures, the amount of money the iPad brings in this year will likely be substantially higher, at least until new Android tablets start hitting the market.

Can the iPad 2 be stopped? Most definitely, but not anytime soon. Apple is simply offering something Android tablets aren’t -- a quality, well-made experience in which the little things work correctly (an issue for Honeycomb), with a wealth of interesting apps that make the device worth owning. The iPad 2 simply captures the imagination, and until a competitor offers an Android tablet with a strong plan to do the same thing, Apple will continue to enjoy a huge chunk of the tab market.