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Apple's iPad had a good run.
Soon, perhaps as early as this year, the tablet market, in which "Apple has reigned since the introduction of its iPad in 2010," may be handing the sales crown to Android, according to a new forecast from ABI Research.
Consumers and enterprises will continue to snap up tablets this year, to the tune of $64 billion, a 28 percent gain from 2012. All told, tablet shipments are forecast to reach 150 million units in 2013, up 38 percent from 2012.
ABI's forecast is much more conservative than IDC's recent predictions on the direction of the tablet market.
Last month, IDC said that it expects tablet shipments to reach 190.9 million devices in 2013. Android will claim 48.8 percent of the tablet market this year while Apple iOS falls to 46 percent from 51 percent last year, giving Android the lead.
The reason behind such a bullish forecast: the exploding popularity of small tablets like the Kindle Fire and the iPad Mini.
Android tablet vendors had a generous head start in small tablet space, however. And despite Apple's bold, if belated move into the small tablet market, ABI hints that it won't be enough to slow Android's momentum.
"The tide is definitely turning toward Android-based tablets, though Apple will not slouch as it feels the competition approaching," said Jeff Orr mobile devices senior practice director for ABI.
The iPad Mini also comes with a downsized price tag and could be cannibalizing sales of the full-sized iPad's profits; both are factors that could affect Apple's huge profit engine.
"The iPad mini was a timely introduction in 2012, though ABI Research remains cautious about the bottom line impact this is having for Apple. The first quarter of 2013 should be the first time where production was able to meet market demand and a better sense of how much 9.7” iPad volume has switched to the smaller, lower-cost mini will be understood," added Orr.
ABI notes that according to its data, Apple iOS constituted 60 percent of tablets shipments in 2012. Android made up 37 percent while the remaining 3 percent was split primarily between Windows and BlackBerry -- figures that are expected to soon shift in favor of a South Korean electronics titan.
"A well-executed Samsung tablet strategy could double the company's market share this year. Unfortunately, there are few 'fast followers' capable of emulating the ownership of technology that Samsung has, suggesting that more innovation is necessary within the Android OS that pulls tablet OEMs closer to Apple," said Orr.