Apple will remain king of the tablet market this year but its reign may be shaken a bit by the ongoing flood of Android devices.
The company will carve off a 62 percent chunk of the tablet market this year, according to a report out yesterday from TrendForce. But that will continue a decline from 66 percent last year and 87 percent the previous year.
Though the iPad's market share may be on the downswing, its sales are still headed in the opposite direction. Estimates from TrendForce call for global sales of about 59 million units in 2012, up from nearly 41 million last year and 14 million in 2010.
Certain Android vendors have captured some of Apple's former market share, but they've failed to catch up with the iPad's advancements.
Amazon's low-priced Kindle Fire ignited strong sales during the holiday quarter. But the Fire "still does not quite match consumers' expectations for a tablet PC," TrendForce said. Further, Amazon's orders for display panels have fallen for the first half of 2012, indicating that the Fire won't be a threat to the iPad's dominant lead.
Some tablet vendors have been slowly cutting back on Android to focus on Windows 8 as Microsoft prepares its new tablet-friendly OS. But even here, success is far from assured.
"The makers are counting on Windows users' high commitment to Microsoft Office to spur the sales of Windows 8 tablets," TrendForce noted. "But several issues persist, such as whether or not the ARM Windows 8 tablet is able to release as scheduled, the weight and battery life, and whether the software compatibility and interface design cater to the users' preferences."
With a new high-resolution display expected, the iPad 3 will help Apple hang onto its leading market share.
But since the new panels are more time-consuming to make, TrendForce questions if supply will be able to keep up with demand.
Finally, any mini iPad in the works is still in the testing stage, according to the research firm. If such a tablet does go into production, it likely would surface around the fourth quarter of 2012, just before the holidays kick in. And rather than hurting sales of the iPad 3 in 2012, a mini iPad would provide a boost to Apple in 2013.
Overall, tablet makers are forecast to sell 94 million units this year, a 53 percent jump from the 62 million sold in 2011.