NEW YORK: Amazon, the online retail giant, could become the sole meaningful rival to Apple in the tablet market, a study by Forrester, the research firm, has argued.

Forrester estimated 28.7m iPads have been sold globally to date, and predicted Amazon's hotly-anticipated competing slate might sell between 3m and 5m units in Q4 2011, if launched in October.

"Apple will maintain a strong lead in market share, but Amazon will gain ground quickly," Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester analyst, said.

A sub-£300 price point and the resolution of possible issues regarding the maintenance of supply were mentioned as key factors likely to help Amazon succeed in this category.

The fact Apple still derives most of its revenue from hardware, an area where Amazon has previously slashed prices as a strategic move, may also prove decisive.

Rotman Epps said: "Amazon's willingness to sell hardware at a loss combined with the strength of its brand, content, cloud infrastructure, and commerce assets makes it the only credible iPad competitor in the market."

More broadly, Amazon can both create its own branded tablets and work with other electronics manufacturers so that it has a range of offerings providing different experiences.

Apps constitute another major battleground, with around 100,000 bespoke applications currently available for the iPad, measured against less than 300 for Google's Honeycomb software.

However, if Amazon employs Google's Android operating system on its slate, media companies, retailers, banks and apps developers should become more interested.

"The bottom line: a year from now, 'Amazon' will be synonymous with 'Android' on tablets, a strong second to Apple's iPad," said Rotman Epps.

During a July conference call, Thomas Szkutak, Amazon's CFO, refused to be drawn into "talking about what we might or might not do" concerning tablets, while Apple has stated it is not daunted by potential rivals.

"We love competition," Tim Cook, Apple's newly-appointed CEO, said earlier this year. "We think it's great for us and for everyone. But we want people to invent their own stuff and we're going to make sure that we defend our portfolio perfectly."

Data sourced from Forrester/Seeking Alpha; additional content by Warc staff