Touchscreen shipments will double this year, according to Gartner. The analyst firm predicts that 362.7 million mobile touchscreen devices will ship in 2010, a 96.8 percent increase over 2009’s 184.3 million units Gartner exp

ects that by 2015 more than 80 percent of mobile devices in North America and Western Europe will be touchscreen. Globally, 58 percent of all devices will be touchscreen by that time.

What makes reading the mobile touchscreen market difficult to read right now is that great hypothetical on the horizon – the iPad.

If Apple’s tablet is a success – and all indicators are that it will be an enormous one – then touchscreen computing will accelerate exponentially, and will perhaps be the near-future of computing, as many people not named Bill Gates expect.

The belief is that the iPad will mainstream large-screen touchscreen computing like the iPhone did for phones. Don’t bet against Apple’s ability to change user habits and behavior. Granted, that change in behavior is less dramatic than would be the case with other disruptive devices, thanks to Apple's marked skill in 'incremental disruption.'

Apple’s iPad, which according to reports is having slight delays in production -  delays which could limit the amount of devices initially available, which would be great for Apple, getting it into the hands of early adopters and influencers while maintaining the buzz in the general public – is expected to ship between one and five million units this year.

It’s no secret that the future of computing is in mobile. The secret is that the change will happen faster than many people – and brands – think. Despite the success of smartphones and apps, more traditional companies, some of whom are still learning to trust the internet, are hesitant to lead their brand into that market.

But some companies expect mobile to become the primary computing platform by 2013.

Google’s Vice President of Global Ad Operations, John Herlihy, predicted yesterday that desktops will be dead in three years, killed by mobile devices.

“In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant. In Japan, most research is done today on smart phones, not PCs,” Herlihy said at the Digital Landscapes conference in Ireland. “Mobile makes the world’s information universally accessible.”

By Mark Alvarez