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Apple’s iPad will maintain its lead against tablet competitors through 2015 but will steadily lose market share to Android tablets, according to a Gartner report.

While not exactly original, Gartner’s forecast is particularly interesting if you read between the lines. The firm predicts that the iPad will have 47.1 percent of the tablet market in 2015 (down from 83.9 percent in 2010), while Android will jump to 38.6 percent of the market in 2015 (from 14 percent last year). If you follow that trajectory, it’s not difficult to see how Android could topple the iPad in 2016 or 2017.

Gartner also assumes that no other tablet competitors will really matter in the coming years, aside from RIM’s QNX-powered BlackBerry PlayBook. By 2015, the PlayBook will be third place in the tablet market with a 10 percent stake. According to Gartner research VP Carolina Milanesi:

It will take time and significant effort for RIM to attract developers and deliver a compelling ecosystem of applications and services around QNX to position it as a viable alternative to Apple or Android. This will limit RIM’s market share growth over the forecast period. 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.

All other tablet platforms, including MeeGo and WebOS, will make a negligible dent in the market over the next few years, Gartner predicts. Milanesi argues that most smartphone owners will want to adopt a tablet that fits their smartphone platform — which really only leaves the door open for the iPad, Android tablets, and RIM tablets to find success.

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