Apple will continue to reign as king of the tablet market in 2012, according to an IHS report released today.
Apple lost some ground to Android during 2011's final quarter due to huge demand for Amazon's Kindle Fire. The retail giant's low-cost tablet helped Android win a 41.1 percent slice of the tablet market over the holidays, up from 31.1 percent in the third quarter.
But as Apple recaptures that lost market share, Android's share will drop to 38.4 percent this year, IHS has forecast. Despite attempts by competitors such as Amazon to pick up and retain a larger chunk of the market, Apple continues to hold the edge.
"The combination of a good-looking device, well-designed applications, video, books, and music has provided consumers with an easy-to-use product and an appealing use case," Rhoda Alexander, IHS director for monitors and tablets research, said in a statement. "Such an ecosystem took Apple years to put together, starting with the iPod plus iTunes Music Store more than nine years ago, and it's proving to be a challenge for the company's competitors to replicate it."
Rumors of an iPad mini have been floating around for a while. Apple, as usual, has been mum on the possibility of such a device. But IHS pointed to "supply-side sources" who claim that a 7.8-inch iPad will launch later this year, adding to Apple's lineup.
Traditional media tablets, such as the iPad, are running the show right now. However, IHS said it believes that the release of Windows 8 later this year will trigger new ultrabooks and hybrid devices that convert between a laptop and a tablet. These "PC tablets" will attract users who want the flexibility of a touch-screen tablet combined with the power of a PC.
But these new hybrid tablets won't cannibalize the media tablet market.
IHS predicts the industry will sell more than 197 million media tablets next year, compared with just 8 million PC tablets.
Tablet sales overall are expected to reach 126 million this year, an 85 percent jump from the 68.4 million units sold last year. Sales are poised to rise another 63 percent next year, culminating in 360 million units sold by 2016.