Apple's iOS is expected to reassert its commanding leadership of the global tablet market after experiencing a temporary dip in market share during the fourth quarter of 2011.
As IHS iSuppli analyst Rhoda Alexander notes, Apple's market share was slightly diminished by a surge in sales of Amazon's wildly popular $200 Kindle Fire tablet - which temporarily buoyed Android's share to an impressive 41.1%, up from 31.1%.
Nevertheless, after falling to 55.1%, iOS remains on track to increase its share to 61% in 2012. As Apple reasserts its leadership, Android's share will decline to 38.4% for the full year of 2012.
"The key to Apple's media-tablet success has been its offering of a complete hardware-plus-content ecosystem," Alexander explained.
"The combination of a good-looking device, well-designed applications, video, books and music has provided an easy-to-use product and an appealing use case. Such an ecosystem took Apple years to put together, starting with the iPod plus iTunes Music Store more than nine years ago, and it's proving to be a challenge for the company's competitors to replicate it."
Alexander also commented on supply-side reports that Cupertino was poised to roll out a smaller, 7.8-inch display version of the iPad later this year - although Apple has yet to confirm such a device.
"A smaller screen does not necessarily mean a substantially lower price; rather, [we] expect Apple to place continuing emphasis on the quality of the overall tablet experience and the benefits of selecting the company's products," said Alexander.
Meanwhile, new ultrabook form factors, coupled with the release of Windows 8 later this year, is projected to drive stronger sales of PC-type tablets. Such tablets, says Alexander, will appeal to users wanting the flexibility of a tablet as well as the versatility of a traditional computer.
"Within the media tablet space, however, the market is fragmenting into two segments - value products largely serving as 'consumption-type' portable media players; and higher-performance units incorporating more complex applications and stronger processors.
"Much of the growth in the future will come from the value segment, but the performance sector will provide the stronger challenge to traditional PCs in both business and consumer markets," she added.