Apple’s iPad has dominated a market it is credited with creating back in 2010, when the very first iPad slate was unveiled to a very mixed response. Some lauded it as the next best thing, while the skeptics brushed it off as merely a large iPhone, but nobody can argue it has been a huge success, one most Android vendors have tried – and failed – to emulate.

According to a report from Electronista, despite achieving 7.3 million sales for Q2 2012, Android’s tablet market share stands at only 29.3, less than half of the iPad’s 17 million sold and 68.3 percent market share.

Up until recently, Apple’s rivals have attempted to topple the iPad by offering similar-looking products, and while most – if not all – have been a great deal cheaper than their Cupertino counterpart, the problem with releasing a similar device is that it will always feel inferior – instead of an alternative – to the real deal.

Analyst Neil Mawston gave his own take on why the iPad is still streets ahead of all others, citing "Unspectacular hardware designs, limited uptake of cellular models and a modest number of tablet-optimized services" as a couple of key areas Android slabs have fallen short.

Having said that, Google’s ASUS-manufactured Nexus 7 could well be the point where the tides begin to turn. No Android slab has created more of a stir aside from the Amazon Kindle Fire which, although cheap, didn’t offer a performance anywhere near that of the market-leader. The Nexus 7, with a quad-core Tegra 3, 1GB RAM and costing just $199, is a dream for anybody looking for a cheap tablet, and by being one of the first to offer Android Jelly Bean (4.1), it’s no wonder many stockists have already sold most of their units.

To quell the danger posed by the Nexus 7 and similar slates, Apple is said to be preparing a smaller iPad, oft referred to in the blogosphere as the iPad Mini. With the Microsoft Surface also said to be arriving this fall, the tablet market will be as fiercely contested as it has ever been, and the resolve of Apple’s tablet dominance will truly be put to the test.

Will Apple remain on top for the foreseeable future? Or do the rivals have what it takes to shake up the market?

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