Vendors hoping to challenge Apple's seemingly unbeatable iPad with their own tablet offerings appear to be hedging their bets and holding off until the launch of Windows 8 later this year, according to Gartner.
Carolina Milanesi, Gartner research vice president, said a lack of product announcements at CES and MWC indicated that many were electing to hold fire.
"[They] will try to enter the market with a dual-platform approach, hoping that the Microsoft brand could help them in both the business and consumer markets," she said.
"IT departments will see Windows 8 as the opportunity to deploy tablets on an OS that is familiar to them and with devices offered by many enterprise-class suppliers," said Milanesi. "This means that we see Windows 8 as a strong IT-supplied offering, more so than an OS with a strong consumer appeal."
Up to now, Milanesi explained, the struggle to compete on price and differentiate enough on either hardware or ecosystem meant that few non-Apple units were hitting the market. "The situation has not improved in early 2012, when the arrival of the new iPad has reset the benchmark," she added.
The data contained in Gartner's latest tablet market forecast (see table below) reveal that even with the predicted rise of Microsoft, Apple will maintain its grip on the market through to the midpoint of the decade.
Cupertino's dominance will be unassailable in the near-term mainly due to the blurring of the lines between consumer and business IT and the growth in BYOD practices. In fact, Gartner said, enterprises will only account for 35% of total tablet sales by 2015, and even these sales will not be clearly defined as enterprise purchases; many will be owned by consumers as part of an official BYOD programme.
"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. This is exactly the same trend that vendors such as RIM had to face in the smartphone market," observed Milanesi.