Steve Jobs holds the market-leading iPadApple's (AAPL) wildly popular iPad tablet computer is expected to maintain its market dominance over the next couple of years, despite a number of rivals rushing to churn out similar products, according to a report released Wednesday by research firm iSuppli.

The iPad is expected to hold a global market share of 74.1% shipments this year, followed by 70.4% next year and a respectable 61.7% in 2012, iSuppli says.

The research firm's assessment of the iPad is based on the Apple's introduction of iPhone in 2007 and the subsequent response by competitors in the ensuing years. In that particular case, competitors jumped on the bandwagon over the next five months to two years. But it wasn't until nearly three years later that serious contenders began to emerge, such as Motorola's (MOT) Droid X smart phone and HTC's Evo 4G, says iSuppli.

"If recent history is any lesson, it will take some time for these companies to get their products to market, longer for them to offer necessary software support and infrastructure, and an even lengthier period to begin to rival the overall user experience Apple is able to deliver," says Rhoda Alexander, iSuppli monitor research director.

The highly-touted iPad launched in early April, with more than 3 million sold within the first three months. Some competitors have been able to more quickly roll out a competing device after the iPad's launch, compared to the iPhone, but those products are still lacking, say iSuppli analysts.

iPad chart"Companies are quickly developing products that match or exceed some of the surface hardware specifications of the Apple iPad. But it's still unlikely that any of the competitors will be able to equal the overall performance experience of the iPad," says Alexander.

Apple's tight integration of software and hardware will give it an advantage over other hardware makers that rely on Google's Android operating system or Windows 7, she says. Two companies that may offer a competing hardware-software device include Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) with its recent Palm OS acquisition and BlackBerry's parent company Research in Motion (RIMM), which recently purchased the BlackPad domain name, according to Alexander.

But that's not stopping a boatload of competitors who don't have their own operating system. Dell (DELL), for example, recently launched its Android-based tablet computer the Streak, Samsung Electronics (SSNHY) has its Galaxy Tab, while Lenovo (LNVGY) is preparing its LePad.

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