Tablet computer sales are expected to nearly double this year, according to Gartner.
The analyst estimates that 119 million media tablets will be sold worldwide in 2012, a 98% increase from 2011 sales of 60 million units.
Apple's iOS continues to be the dominant media tablet operating system (OS), accounting for 61.4% of worldwide sales this year, despite the imminent arrival of Microsoft Windows 8-based devices and the expected international rollout of Amazon's Kindle Fire.
But Gartner predicts that by 2016, Google's Android OS will close the gap on its Apple rival, growing from 32% of the market in 2012 to 37% in four years, bringing the iOS share down to 46%.
"Despite PC vendors and phone manufacturers wanting a piece of the pie and launching themselves into the media tablet market, so far we have seen very limited success outside of Apple with its iPad," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.
However, she expects IT departments to use Windows 8 as an opportunity to deploy tablets on an OS that is more familiar to them and with devices offered by many enterprise-class suppliers. "This means that we see Windows 8 as a strong IT-supplied offering more so than an OS with a strong consumer appeal," she said.
By 2015, Gartner expects 35% of tablets to be bought for enterprise use, although many of these will be purchased by staff for personal use and used for work under corporate "bring your own device" schemes, rather than specifically procured by organisations.
"This poses a big threat to vendors that thought about focusing on the enterprise market who will now have to become appealing to consumers as well," said Milanesi. "This is exactly the same trend that vendors such as RIM had to face in the smartphone market."
Gartner said the main issue hindering Android tablets has been the lack of applications that are dedicated to tablets and take advantage of their specific capabilities. Gartner's consumer survey data shows that consumers are running many apps on both their mobile phones and their tablets.
Worldwide sales of media tablets to end users by OS (thousands of units)
|Other Operating Systems||1,919||510||637||464|
Source: Gartner (April 2012)