Despite the continued rapid rise of the Android platform in the fast-growing tablet category, Apple's iPad tablet will remain king. That's one of the findings in a new report from industry research firm Gartner.

The report, released Tuesday, estimated that global tablet sales will reach about 119 million tablets by the end of this year, nearly doubling the 60 million sold last year. Of those, Apple is expected to sell about 73 million tablets, for a 61 percent market share. While that's a five percentage point drop from 2011, Android-based tablets will increase their share by only three points to 32 percent, with about 61 million sold to end users.

New iPad 'Reset the Benchmark'

Gartner projects nearly 5 million Microsoft Windows 8-based tablets being sold in 2012, and about 2.6 million of Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBooks.

By 2013, Gartner sees the iPad reaching about 99 million tablets, compared with 61 million Android tablets, about 14 million Windows 8 devices, and 6 million PlayBooks. In 2016, Apple is expected to boom to nearly 170 million, Android to 137 million, Microsoft to 43 million, and PlayBooks to almost 18 million.

Gartner said that one of the factors holding down Android's growth is a lack of apps designed specifically for tablets.

Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, noted in a statement that, "despite PC vendors and phone manufacturers wanting a piece of the pie and launching themselves into the media tablet market," there has been "very limited success outside of Apple with its iPad" in this category.

Milanesi added that tablet vendors are struggling to compete on the basis of price or differentiations based on hardware or ecosystems, such as Android apps, but the new iPad has now "reset the benchmark for the product to beat."

Waiting for 8

She also noted that there were relatively few new tablet announcements at either the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show or the Mobile World Congress. The reason, Milanesi said, is that many vendors are waiting for Windows 8 to arrive, "hoping that the Microsoft brand could help them in both the enterprise Relevant Products/Services and consumer markets."

Microsoft's growing presence, from zero tablets sold last year to a projected 12 percent of the market in four years, is expected to be driven by IT departments who are comfortable with buying and deploying a platform that is familiar and available from many of their suppliers. Gartner projects this business base will drive Windows tablets more than consumer sales.

Milanesi pointed out that this means vendors who thought they could focus on enterprise markets will also have to address consumers as well -- not unlike the situation that RIM faces, with its smartphones.

In fact, by 2015, Gartner is projecting that enterprises will increase their acquisition of tablets, with business sales accounting for about 35 percent of the total. But many of these sales will be counted as consumer ones, according to the research firm, as companies allow employees to use their home devices at work.