Can You Guess Which Tablet Will Dominate Apple’s iPad in the Workplace?

Worldwide media tablet sales to end users are forecast to total 118.9 million units in 2012, a 98 percent increase from 2011 sales of 60 million units. Researcher Gartner Inc. projects Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS will continue to be the dominant media tablet operating system and will account for 61.4 percent of worldwide media tablets sold in 2012. Furthermore, Gartner analysts have taken issue with Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android tablets because they lack dedicated apps. Android tablets are forecast to account for 31.9 percent of media tablet sales in 2012.

Apple is expected to be the market leader through the forecast period despite the unveiling of devices running on Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) new mobile operating system, Windows 8, and the international debut of Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire. Even though PC vendors like Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) and phone manufacturers like Samsung have launched tablets, none have managed to make a dent in the market. Experts assert that there has been very limited success outside of Apple with its iPad.

Many vendors are waiting for Windows 8 to be released and help them break into the enterprise and consumer markets. Windows 8 will be Microsoft’s first debut into the tablet market. Microsoft tablets are projected to account for 4.1 percent of media tablet sales this year, and grow to 11.8 percent of sales by the end of 2016. Windows 8 is expected to make an impression on IT departments looking to deploy tablets on an OS to which they are accustomed and on devices offered by many enterprise-class suppliers. Analysts expect to see Windows 8 as a strong IT-supplied offering. Windows 8 could even beat out the ever-so-popular iPad.

Gartner analysts predict that enterprise sales of media tablets will account for about 35 percent of total tablet sales in 2015. However, these sales will not be defined as enterprise purchases, since many enterprises follow a buy-your-own-device program. Many tablets will be owned by consumers who use them at work.

This phenomena poses a threat to vendors, which is similar to the threat Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) faced in the smartphone market. Vendors will have to focus on the IT enterprise and on consumer support to launch devices successfully. Tablets will have to be created for consumers first and then rely on an ecosystem of apps and services to make them more manageable in a business environment.

As long as Windows 8 doesn’t compromise usability for consumers, it will have an advantage in appeal for the IT enterprise.