Apple iPad

Dark days are ahead for Android-powered tablets, according to a recent report by analysts at Gartner who predict that Apple’s superiority in the tablet market will continue unchallenged throughout 2011 and will carry on into 2014.

The iPad is expected to account alone for 73.4 percent of global tablet sales while Android will follow with a feeble 17.3 percent, the firm says. Apple’s sales, however, are expected to drop faintly from 2010, when the iPad claimed 83 percent of the market.

“We expect Apple to maintain a market share lead throughout our forecast period by commanding more than 50 percent of the market until 2014,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. “This is because Apple delivers a superior and unified user experience across its hardware, software and services. Unless competitors can respond with a similar approach, challenges to Apple’s position will be minimal.”

According to Gartner, Android tablets are prepared to ship 11 million units in 2011, accounting for 17.3 percent of media tablet sales. This number is up only slightly from Android’s 2010 market share of 14.3 percent.

The forecast for Android has been lowered by 28 percent from last quarter’s projection. The drop would have been much greater had it not been for the success of lower-end tablets in Asia and the expectations looming around the launch of Amazon's tablet.

“Apple had the foresight to create this market and in doing that planned for it as far as component supplies such as memory and screen. This allowed Apple to bring the iPad out at a very competitive price and no compromise in experience among the different models that offer storage and connectivity options,” Milanesi added. Apple's dominance is imminent

According to Milanesi, Android’s demand in the tablet market has been constrained by high prices, weak user interface and limited tablet applications. Google will address these issues with the release of Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich. Android, however, can depend on strong support from key OEMs as it has a sizeable developer community, and its smartphones application ecosystem is second only to Apple’s.

“Most of Apple's competitors are struggling to meet Apple's prices without considerably sacrificing margins. Screen quality and processing power are the two hardware features that vendors cannot afford to compromise on,” said Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner. “They should consider everything else ‘nice to have,’ rather than essential, in order to keep bills-of-materials costs competitive with those of the iPad.”

Analysts at Gartner, in the report, further added that other vendors who will arrive next year should look to concentrate on delivering a rich user experience based on a strong tie between smartphones and tablets, a spontaneous user interface, a good set of apps and the capability to share content flawlessly between devices.