Analysts are at odds ahead of the iPad 3 launch with some predicting continued growth while others see Android and Windows 8 tablets taking some of its market share.
Despite the continuing proliferation of Android tablets and especially those with high-end specs such as the Asus Transformer Prime and Huawei MediaPad 10 FHD, the iPad still rules the roost and last year took 62 percent of the tablet market according to the latest figures from IMS Research. However the research firm believes this share is set to grow even more, suggesting Apple will gain 70 percent of the market in 2012.
The report, entitled the World Tablet PC Market Quarterly Tracker, states that 70 million iPads will be shipped in 2012 which would represent a 71 percent growth year-on-year. Last year according to Apple's official releases, the company sold 40.49 million iPads, which would tally with IMS Research figures.
"There is a large customer base loyal to Apple products that have been waiting for the latest tablet. Many owners of the iPad 1 are also expected to upgrade to the latest release. In addition to this consumer demand, growth is also forecast as a result of sales into enterprise and education."
However not all analysts think that 2012 will be the year of the iPad 3. Adam Leach, principal analyst of Ovum believes that competition will get a lot more intense in the coming 12 months.
"High on the list of challengers will be Google and Microsoft; both companies hoping to break into the growing tablet market by providing hardware manufacturers with the software platforms and developer ecosystems that will allow them to compete directly with Apple's iOS. Google has finally bridged the smartphone and tablet divide with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), offering developers a unified platform for the two types of device. "
However the uptake of Ice Cream Sandwich has been extremely slow and recent reports suggest that Google has been unhappy with its implementation and roll-out by manufacturers and carriers and could be looking at launching Android 5.0 (Jelly Bean) as soon as this summer. We will almost certainly learn more at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas which begins on Friday.
One of the issues facing the adoption of Android tablets is the availability of tablet-optimised apps from the Android Market - or Google Play as it is now called - but Leach thinks the adoption of ICS "should increase the number of tablet optimized applications, which were notably absent from Android 3.0 (Honeycomb)."
As well as Android, the up-coming availability of Windows 8 on ARM, should give Apple some more competition but this won't arrive until much later in the year, giving Apple a large head-start at converting customers looking to buy a new tablet. "In addition, Microsoft is set to launch Windows 8 this year, targeting tablet devices with its Metro UI and build specifically for ARM-based chipsets. Microsoft's introduction of Windows 8 on ARM and its shift away from Intel for tablets will drastically increase the company's ability to compete on price point and user experience with Apple," Leach said.
Make sure you watch the launch of the iPad 3 (or iPad HD/iPad 2S) this evening live here at the IBTimes UK technology page where we will be bringing you all the details as they happen.