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4/11/2011
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Gartner: Microsoft MIA In Tablets Through 2015

Slate market will become a two-horse race dominated by Apple and Google, according to new market forecast.

Apple will continue to dominate the tablet market through 2015, according to research released Monday by Gartner. While that's hardly surprising, given the iPad's success, more shocking is the fact that the firm expects Microsoft to be nothing more than a sideline player in one of tech's hottest segments for at least the next half-decade.

Gartner predicts Apple's iOS will hold 47.1% of the tablet market by 2015, down from the 83.9% stake it currently holds as rival Google picks up its efforts. Google Android's share will increase from its current 14.2% stakes to 38.6%, according to Gartner.

Third place belongs to Research In Motion's QNX operating system, which will power the company's new PlayBook tablet. Gartner expects that QNX will hold a share of 10% by 2015 as the PlayBook makes a dent in the business market. Hewlett-Packard's WebOS is projected at fourth place, with an expected market share of 3%, while the open source MeeGo OS is fifth at 1%.

That Gartner does not expect Microsoft to be a top-five player in tablets, even by 2015, is significant in that it shows the firm is skeptical about the software maker's plans for slates, which have suffered a number of setbacks.

In January of 2010, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed off a prototype of an HP tablet running Windows 7. "I want to highlight new form factors that are coming this year in what I would call slate PCs," Ballmer said. "We're talking about something that is almost as portable as a phone and powerful as a PC running Windows 7."

More than 14 months later, Microsoft is still largely absent from the tablet scene. HP ultimately ditched its plans for a Windows 7-based tablet, opting instead to go with WebOS for new devices that are expected to hit the market this year. Insiders said HP ultimately concluded that Windows 7 was too bulky and resource hungry to shoehorn into a tablet form factor.

Microsoft won't have another opportunity to make a dent in the tablet market until it ships Windows 8, likely some time in 2012. The company has said it plans to produce a version of Windows 8 that runs on UK-based ARM's mobile processors, which have become the chip of choice for most tablet makers due to their light footprint and energy efficiency.

But with Microsoft sending messages to the market that are sporadic and at times seemingly contradictory—it's also said it plans to introduce tablets that run on Intel's Oak Trail chip, which will ship this year—the company may find it difficult to recruit hardware partners and developers to whatever tablet platform it finally does produce.

By then, at least according to Gartner, the tablet market will have become a two-horse race dominated by Apple and Google, although the firm expects RIM to maintain a niche presence in the business market with the PlayBook as enterprises look to extend their existing investments in BlackBerry hardware and software.

"It will be mainly organizations that will be interested in RIM's tablets because they either already have RIM's infrastructure deployed or have stringent security requirements," said Gartner research VP Carolina Milanesi, in a statement.

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