Even with a flood of rival products in the works, Apple’s iPad is unlikely to face a viable competitor until 2011, allowing the company to maintain a dominant share in the tablet market at least through 2012, according to market research firm iSuppli Corp. (http://www.isuppli.com).

The iPad will account for an overwhelming 74.1% of global tablet shipments in 2010, with the remaining 25.9% consisting of a mix of older PC-type tablet products and competitive slates, says the research group. Despite the arrival of the first real iPad competitors in 2011, Apple still will maintain a prevailing 70.4% share of shipments, iPad research from iSuppli bears out. 

Even in 2012, the iPad will continue to control nearly two-thirds of shipments, at 61.7 % as the competition strives to develop ecosystems of tablet apps and content that can match up with those of Apple.

“Although the iPad has been on the market for only a few months, powerful interests throughout the technology business are devoting enormous resources to challenge and topple Apple’s domination in this fast-growing marketplace,” said Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research at iSuppli. “However, if recent history is any lesson, it will take some time for these companies to get their products to market, longer for them to offer necessary software support and infrastructure, and an even lengthier period to begin to rival the overall user experience Apple is able to deliver.”

iSuppli’s forecast of the competitive landscape for the iPad is based on the short history of the iPhone market. The iPad is in a similar situation as the iPhone when it first arrived.

Launched in June 2007, the iPhone was followed by a range of competing products during the next five months to two years, such as the Samsung F700, the UTStarcom XV6800, the Google G1 and the Palm Pre. However, it took almost three years for the competition to offer phones that were not just in the ballpark of being comparable to the iPhone, but also were truly differentiated and superior in some respects, iSuppli’s mobile market research indicates. These phones today include the Motorola Droid, coming 29 months after the iPhone introduction; and the HTC Evo 4G, released 36 months later.

Presently there are numerous products identified by iSuppli as iPad competitors, such as Android- and Windows 7-based tablets from Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. and Lenovo. However, none of these is a serious competitor to the iPad from a solution perspective, iSuppli believes.

“Companies are quickly developing products that match or exceed some of the surface hardware specifications of the Apple iPad,” Alexander sats. “But it’s still unlikely that any of the competitors will be able to equal the overall performance experience of the iPad.  Apple’s complete integration of hardware, software, operating system and applications is a major piece of what makes the device a standout. And on that basis — an integrated hardware/software design — we don’t see anything in the marketplace at present that seems likely to rival what Apple is offering in tablets today.”