Apple iPad to Lead Android in Tablet Market in 2012

Google Android tablets will comprise 39 percent of the tablet market by 2012, nearing Apple's 44 percent iPad share. The trend mirrors how Android handsets are catching the iPhone.

Apple's iPad will command 44 percent of the total tablet market by 2012, with tablets based on Google's Android operating system nipping at its heels with 39 percent, according to researchers at Piper Jaffray.

Apple that has the dominate position in 2010, selling 90 percent of the 14.5 million tablets shipped this year after launching its seminal product in April. Apple sold 4.2 million iPads in the fourth quarter.

Android 's 2010 market share will be 11 percent, Munster estimated. Worldwide sales of Samsung's Galaxy Tab topped 1 million in December, though the Android 2.2-based, 7-inch screen tablet only launched from wireless carriers in the United States in mid-November.

This came as a surprise to Munster, who called the Tab "a weak offering, but finding surprising success."

"We believe the Galaxy Tab has been an unexpected success considering it runs a version of Android not optimized for tablets," Munster wrote in his Dec. 10 research note. "We believe this success is partly due to the fact that it is the only non-iPad tablet available, but also that Android will be a meaningful competitor."

The analyst expects Android tablets to take off in 2011, when machines running the next-generation Android 3.0 operating system, code-named Honeycomb, arrive.

Android creator Andy Rubin indicated that Honeycomb is optimized for tablets when he demonstrated a Motorola tablet prototype running Android 3.0 at the D: Dive into Mobile show Dec. 6.

Munster said that showing, combined with Motorola's promise of 7-inch and 10-inch Android tablets in 2011, and Samsung's pledge of a 10-inch Tab next year, bode well for Android machines next year.

Munster expects the tablet market playing field will level out some in 2011 and beyond. Apple will finish 2011 with 53 percent market share, with Google grabbing 32.5 percent.

This is similar to to the trend arc of Android smartphones, which have nearly caught up to Apple's iPhone in U.S. market share.

Ultimately, he sees 70.8 million tablets shipping in 2012, with iPad and Android taking the aforementioned 44 percent to 39 percent shares.

Microsoft Windows 7, RIM's Playbook, and HP webOS tablets will likely comprise the lion's share of the remaining 17 percent of the worldwide tablet market at that time.

However, those devices must actually launch before we can host any meaningful conversation about them. The PlayBook has already been delayed.