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Gartner: Windows 8 Tablets Will Trail iPad, Android by 2015

According to the latest projections from Gartner, Apple's iOS and Google's Android will be the dominant tablet operating systems in the market through 2015, with Microsoft's Windows 8 OS trailing at a distant third.

The Windows 8 demos of early June and the more recent Build conference indicate that Microsoft's forthcoming OS will have a strong tablet focus. Instead of the traditional folder icons of previous Windows desktop interfaces, Windows 8 features a tile-based UI that resembles Windows Phone 7. The "Metro-style" apps that will run on Windows 8 will be fully touch-enabled (though Microsoft has taken care to stress that Windows 8 will work just as well for users who want to use keyboards and mice).

However, the projections Gartner released on Thursday have put a damper on Windows 8's tablet prospects. In 2012 -- widely considered a likely candidate for Windows 8's release year -- Gartner projects a predictably low number of Windows 8 tablets sold: 4.3 million units. That puts it behind Research In Motion's QNX platform (6.3 million units) and far behind Android (22.9 million units) and iOS (69 million units).

By 2015, however, Gartner expects Windows 8 tablets to remain a distant third, with just 34.4 million units sold -- less than 11 percent of the projected worldwide tablet market that year. Leading the market in 2015 will be iOS, with 148.7 million units sold (46 percent of the market), followed by Android, with 116.4 million units sold (36 percent of the market).

"The current buzz around Windows 8 driven by the demonstrations seen at the Build conference might be short-lived if Microsoft's push to use the new OS across devices comes at a compromise in usability," Gartner said in a statement. The research firm added that Windows 8's late arrival into the tablet OS scene gives it a built-in disadvantage compared to the more entrenched iOS and Android.

"Microsoft's platform will find its biggest opportunities in the enterprise segment, where IT departments could benefit from smoother integration with existing Microsoft software," Gartner said. 

While Gartner expects less-than-stellar growth for Windows 8 tablets, the firm continues to project gangbuster growth for the overall tablet market. Tablet sales are expected to balloon to 63.6 million units by the end of 2011 -- a 261 percent jump over 2010's sales. iOS will lead the 2011 market with a 73 percent share. While this is a decline from its 83 percent share in 2010, the good news for Apple is Gartner expects iOS to maintain at least a 50 percent share until 2014.

"This is because Apple delivers a superior and unified user experience across its hardware, software and services," said Gartner Research Vice President Carolina Milanesi in a prepared statement. "Unless competitors can respond with a similar approach, challenges to Apple's position will be minimal."

Unlike iOS, Android's projected 2011 share (17 percent) is higher than its 2010 share (14 percent). However, Gartner said it has lowered its forecast for Android by 28 percent since last quarter, and would have lowered it further if not for strong tablet sales in Asia and the buzz around the forthcoming Android-based Amazon tablet.

"So far, Android's appeal in the tablet market has been constrained by high prices, weak user interface and limited tablet application," Milanesi said.

Gartner included other tablet platforms in its forecast, but their sales compared to the two market leaders are negligible. QNX is forecast to close 2011 with less than 5 percent share of the total market. Hewlett-Packard's webOS platform -- which HP reportedly plans to split into two businesses following its decision to ditch its TouchPad tablet -- is expected to have 3 percent share. All other tablet OSes are projected to have less than 1 percent share.

Worldwide Sales of Media Tablets to End Users by OS
(Thousands of Units)
OS
2010
2011
2012
2015
iOS 14,685 46,697 69,025 148,674
Android 2,512 11,020 22,875 116,444
Windows 8 0 0 4,348 34,435
QNX 0 3,016 6,274 26,123
webOS 0 2,053 0 0
MeeGo 179 476 490 197
Other OSes 235 375 467 431
Total Market 17,610 63,637 103,479 326,304
Source: Gartner (September 2011)

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the Senior Site Producer for RCPmag.com.

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