Android, Not Apple, to Lead Huge Tablet Market in 2014: RBC Analyst

Tablets have yet to be purchased by 99.7 percent of people on the planet, leaving plenty of potential for growth, according to RBC-which expects Android to have a larger market share than Apple.

Apple sold 15 million iPads from April to December last year, and every major PC and smartphone manufacturer has since set plans in motion to launch a competing device of its own. Think the tablet market is crazy already? The really intense figures are yet to come.

According to a March 4 report from RBC analyst Mike Abramsky, only 0.3 percent of the world's population has so far bought a tablet, leaving a big, big market of potential purchasers.

By 2014, Abramsky expects that more than 400 million people will own tablets, with 185 million units shipping in 2014. And while Apple may for now dominate the field-holding more than 90 percent of the worldwide market share, according to ABI Research-Abramsky projects that 40 percent of 2014's sales will be tablets running Google's Android OS.

The reason for this will be Android's "broader support from OEMs and carriers and expected budget-priced Android tablets from Asia," wrote Abramsky, according to U.K. site FoneHome. These are essentially, the same factors that enabled Android to become the leading mobile operating system in just two years.

Canalys reported Jan. 31 that during the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphones running Android passed long-time-leader Nokia's Symbian platform; Android shipped 32.9 million units to Symbian's 31 million.

According to Abramsky, in 2014, Apple's OS will follow Google's Android, with 34 percent market share. Next up, with 13 percent, will come Microsoft, followed by RIM's BlackBerry, with 8 percent, and HP's webOS, with a 5 percent share.

Deloitte reported Jan. 18 that Apple, Motorola and Samsung will help to fuel a trend that will mark 2011 as a "tipping point" for tablet sales. In another report the same day, IDC said it expects tablet growth to "accelerate significantly" during the first quarter of 2011, with new products poised for market, such as the Motorola Xoom, RIM BlackBerry PlayBook and HP TouchPad.

IDC forecast tablet sales to reach 44.6 million units in 2011 and rise to 70.8 million units in 2012. Meanwhile, Deloitte put 2011's projected total at 50 million units, with substantial demand from enterprise markets; health care and retail could alone account for 5 million tablets this year.

Raymond James, also in a Jan. 18 report, anticipated, too, that Android will eventually overtake Apple's iOS in market share, adding that it additionally has high hopes for tablets running HP's webOS.

"We view webOS as a very competitive operating system and believe that HP's brand name, expansive customer base and world-class supply chain position the company for success in the tablet market," wrote Raymond James analyst Brian Alexander.

More recently, Morgan Stanley reported-similar to RBC's Abramsky-that the tablet market is still being underestimated, and that shipments could reach 100 million units in 2012. China, Morgan Stanley said in a report, will lead the worldwide market, accounting for 41 percent of all shipments, while the United States, behind Japan and much of Europe, will account for just 11 percent of sales.

Abramsky, in a chart in his 88-page report, emphasized the potential for tablet growth by comparing tablet owners to those of other markets. While tablet and smartphone owners total approximately 394 million users, broadband subscribers are 555 million strong, PC owners run to 1.3 billion and Internet users 2 billion, while overall mobile subscribers have passed the 5 billion mark.