Apple's iPad to have 'free run' in holiday shopping season

Gartner says that until Android can get its hardware, software and services act together, the tablet market belongs to Apple's iPad.

Apple's iPad is likely to be unchallenged in the tablet market this holiday shopping season, according to Gartner projections.

The research firm projected that global tablet sales will hit 63.6 million units in 2011, up from 17.6 million in 2010.

Media tablets will hit 326.3 million units in 2015.

For now, Gartner estimates that Apple's iPad will account for 73.4 percent of global tablet sales, down from 83 percent in 2010. However, the number of units has grown substantially. Android will be No. 2 in market share with 17.3 percent of the market (11 million units) and other platforms are lagging with less than 5 percent share.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said that Apple's integration between hardware, software and services make it tough to beat. She said:

Unless competitors can respond with a similar approach, challenges to Apple’s position will be minimal.

Milanesi blasted Android tablets for high prices, a weak user interface and a lack of tablet apps. She added that Android's Ice Cream Sandwich release may fix things, but it's unclear. Like IDC, Gartner seems to be betting that the Android camp is vulnerable.

As for the rest of the field, Gartner said RIM's QNX platform is promising, but it's too early to tell whether it’ll do well. Microsoft's Windows 8 success as a tablet will depend on compromises the company makes to be cross platform.

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