Worldwide annual media tablet shipments are expected to top 120 million units in 2015, according to ABI Research’s new “Media Tablets” study. While not quite as strong as traditional PC or smartphone annual sales, media tablets are emerging from the shadow of non-handset mobile devices and rapidly coming into their own. Android media tablets have collectively taken 20 percent market share away from the iPad in the last 12 months. However, no single vendor using Android (or any other OS) has been able to mount a significant challenge against it.

ABI Research Mobile Devices Group Director Jeff Orr said in a statement, “Many vendors have introduced media tablets, but none are separating themselves from the pack to pose a serious threat to Apple. In fact, most have introduced products at prices higher than similarly-configured iPads. Apple, never a company to be waiting for others, has introduced its second-generation iPad media tablet while keeping product pricing unchanged.”

Fragmentation within operating system software is hindering growth of this device category. Application developers must choose an initial software platform and may delay starting development if the market potential is not significant. Google’s Android OS has no less than three different software builds deployed across media tablets at the same time. The benefits of open software platform development have yet to be realized for media tablets.

“De-featured, low-cost media tablets are being introduced by more than fifty vendors in 2011,” Orr said. “This will certainly help bolster year-over-year growth for the category, but it also creates a negative perception in the minds of the mass consumer audience about the readiness of media tablets to be fully functional within the next several years. Good user experiences and product response are needed to propel this market beyond the ‘early adopter’ stage.”

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