Apple’s iPad commanded 85% of the market for media tablets in 2010, according to full-year figures reported by ABI Research. The tablet market surged in the second half of the year, but it wasn’t just tablets: according to senior practice director Jeff Orr, “Device categories including netbooks and mobile broadband-enabled eBook Readers showed gains in year-over-year shipment numbers in 2010. The hype that media tablets were displacing portable computers and dedicated CE device purchases simply didn’t become a reality.”

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab ranked a distant second to the iPad in market share, with about 8%, while Archos’s Internet Tablet range just barely moved the needle at 2%. These top three vendors accounted for 95% of the media tablet market between them.

However that breakdown isn’t carved in stone; Orr says, “Many new entrants are looking to differentiate themselves from the $600+ ASP of the iPad, so low-feature and low-cost designs will become common. We expect between 40 and 50 million media tablets to ship worldwide in 2011.”

What of the more distant future? There are some scenarios suggesting a possible leveling-off of media tablet demand around 2015-2016, but market and economic variables will multiply with each passing year. “With increasing choices for consumers and greater opportunities for businesses to consider ultra-mobile devices, we expect multiple device categories to benefit in the near-term,” adds Orr.