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Tidal Wave of Tablets on the Horizon

By Erika Morphy
May 5, 2012 4:26 PM PT

By 2016, tablet PCs will reach an inflection point, a new study predicts: That is the year tablet shipments are predicted to outpace those of notebook PCs.

Tidal Wave of Tablets on the Horizon

That is one prediction in the quarterly NPD DisplaySearch Tablet Quarterly report, which also forecasts that shipments of tablet PCs will grow from 81.6 million units in 2011 to 424.9 million units by 2017.

It points to a number of reasons for the growth: the ever-increasing options for consumers, including new operating systems. New features on the devices and third-party apps are proliferating. Also, the mobile computing global supply and manufacturing chain has increased capacity to meet demand.

A Solid Trend

While it may be hard to fathom right now, this trend of tablet growth eventually outpacing laptops is a solid one, said Bruce White, professor of computer information systems at Quinnipiac University.

"The prediction, in my opinion, is correct," he told the E-Commerce Times.

One reason is the widespread adoption of apps versus webpages, he said. "The average user might visit eight to 10 apps daily."

Also, tablets, like laptops, will continue to improve in speed and power every year-and-a-half -- that is, they too will follow Moore's law, White said. "By 2016, tablets will be approximately four times as robust as today's tablets."

The growing sophistication of the cloud is another driver, said Tyler Lessard, CMO of Fixmo.

"As more content moves into the cloud, there is less of a need for big hard drives," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Tablets can support much thinner applications as a result."

Other key features, such as touch typing, will continue to improve as well, Lessard said -- along with tablets' peripherals.

"We are now seeing first- and second-generation peripheral devices. These will just evolve over the next couple of years, and we will see more and more professional packaged products around tablets come to market," he said.

Another driver of tablet adoption is the so-called Bring Your Own Device to Work trend, Ralph Shaw, CEO of iSimplyConnect, told the E-Commerce Times.

Laptops are not about to become extinct in the enterprise, he said, but they will have to make room for tablets that employees bring from home.

A Changing OS Market

The growing choice in operating systems is perhaps the most underappreciated of all the drivers behind tablet growth. For the most part, the tablet market has been all about Apple, almost all of the time, despite offerings from other vendors.

However, Google Android and Microsoft Windows RT initiatives will take root and carve out significant share in the tablet market as well, according to NPD DisplaySearch.

As a result, iOS will lose share, dropping from 72.1 percent in 2012 to 50.9 percent in 2017. Android will increase from 22.5 percent in 2012 to 40.5 percent over the same period, NPD DisplaySearch predicts.

Share for Windows RT is predicted to grow from 1.5 percent in 2012 to 7.5 percent in 2017.

The shift will not be a jarring one, however, Richard Shim, senior analyst at NPD DisplaySearch, told the E-Commerce Times.

"It will be more of a natural evolution of the market," he said. "Yes, Apple will be losing share, but the number of units it ships will also rise by a significant degree. "

The tablet market is in the early stages, and it is natural for competitors to erode the market share of the leader, said Shim. "As the competing operating systems mature and improve, all of this is to be expected."

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