Apple’s iPad Poised to Dominate Through 2020?

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Everything’s coming up roses for Apple’s iPad in 2011, and that’s bound to continue for at least the next decade or so, predicts Needham & Company analyst Charlie Wolf. In fact the investment firm just bumped its target price for Apple’s stock to $540 and projects sales of 54 million iPads and 108 million iPhones in 2012.

Is the guy nuts, or (ostensibly) prophetic?

(LIST: Tablets: ‘Why Should Somebody Buy This Instead of an iPad?’)

According to Wolf, the iPad has the market by the horns until at least 2020. This year, he says Apple’s tablet will walk off with a whopping 85% of the market. While that number declines rolling forward, it’ll still be as high as 72.5% (101 million units shipped) in 2015 and a still-majority 60% (140 million units shipped) when 2020 rolls around.

Sound a mite Apple-blinkered? Wolf doesn’t think so. His argument: Apple has the edge in device streamlining, component costs and scads of apps.

“Future tablets are more likely to steal share from one another than from the iPad,” says Wolf, arguing the alternative tablet market—currently jammed with models from Xoom, RIM, HP and others—is simply too crowded.

“All of them have been greeted with a yawn and lackluster sales,” says Wolf. “None have been able to undercut the aggressively priced iPad, because the iPad’s component costs are materially lower than those of competing tablets. In the case of tablets, the only thing that matters—that turns what’s otherwise a slab into a versatile device—are the apps. And the applications available on the tablets introduced this year number at best in the hundreds. In comparison, more than 100,000 applications are available on the iPad.”

By contrast, a DigiTimes note citing “market watchers” claims non-Apple tablet shipments are expected to grow 134% in 2012, compared with a forecast of just 55% for Apple’s iPad. The report suggests iPad demand is nearing saturation levels, and that while iPad shipments will increase from about 36 million units to about 55 million units in 2012, non-Apple tablet shipments will collectively increase from about 20 million units to about 45 million units in 2012.

Curiouser and curiouser.

(via AllThingsD)

MORE: First Impressions of Facebook’s Not-So-Secret iPad App

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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