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Led by enterprise sales, global tablet use predicted to approach 800M by 2018

Though annual tablet sales have largely plateaued and aren't expected to see reignited growth in the near future, devices like Apple's iPad will continue to grow in use in corporate environments, Forrester Research believes.

The research firm's latest predictions were revealed as part of its "Global Tablet Forecast 2015" report issued on Monday, a copy of which was provided to AppleInsider. It acknowledged that the overall tablet market has hit a plateau as Apple's iPad has struggled to grow in year over year sales, but noted that business sales are a "booming" bright spot.

"While the consumer market sees vacillation, the percentage of tablets the business is purchasing and managing directly continues to increase steadily," wrote analyst J.P. Gownder.

Looking forward, Forrester believes total global tablet sales will reach nearly 218 million units this year. Future growth is expected to be moderate —  by 2018, Forrester believes annual sales will reach about 250 million.

But while year over year sales aren't expected to spike, Forrester does see the global tablet installed base growing steadily. The firm's estimates call for an installed base of about 580 million units by the end of this year, growing to nearly 782 million by 2018.

Forrester believes the growth in tablets going forward will be largely driven by business-bought devices. While it pegs current business-owned tablets at about 14 percent of the overall global installed base, that's expected to grow to 20 percent of all tablets by 2018.

As enterprise adoption continues to grow, Forrester sees Apple positioned extremely well, especially with its partnership with IBM. Under the MobileFirst banner, IBM is responsible for hardware leasing, device management, security, analytics, mobile integration, and on-site service with iOS devices, while Apple is involved with software development and customer troubleshooting via AppleCare.

"Apple's ecosystem for iPads at work will only continue to get stronger, making iPad a sound choice for company-owned devices," Forrester wrote.