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Tablets Seeing Stronger Adoption Than Expected

Driven by stronger-than-expected Android tablet sales and new developments from Apple, adoption of tablets worldwide is growing faster than previously predicted, according to market research firm IDC. The organization has revised its tablet forecast up for the current year and through 2016.

By IDC's new reckoning, tablet shipments in 2012 will hit 122.3 million units, up from the previous forecast of 117.1 million for the year. The firm also revised its 2013 forecast upward, from the previous estimate of 165.9 million units to the new figure of 172.4 million units. That growth will continue snowballing through 2016, when unit shipments are now forecast to hit 282.7 million (up significantly from the previous 2016 forecast of 261.4 million).

The growth, according to IDC, has been spurred in part by a strong showing from Android tablet manufacturers, including Google itself, as well as the new iPad and iPad mini.

"Tablets continue to captivate consumers, and as the market shifts toward smaller, more mobile screen sizes and lower prices points, we expect demand to accelerate in the fourth quarter and beyond," said Tom Mainelli, IDC research director, Tablets, in a prepared statement. "Android tablets are gaining traction in the market thanks to solid products from Google, Amazon, Samsung, and others. And Apple's November iPad mini launch, along with its surprise refresh of the full-sized iPad, positions the company well for a strong holiday season."

While Apple's iOS will remain the dominant operating system int he tablet space, its market share will slip in 2012, according to IDC's revised Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. For the year, iOS will power 53.8 percent of all tablets shipped, down from 56.3 percent in 2011, while Android will power 42.7 percent of tablets, up from 39.8 percent in 2011.

"The breadth and depth of Android has taken full effect on the tablet market as it has for the smartphone space," said Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobile Device Trackers, also in a prepared statement. "Android tablet shipments will certainly act as the catalyst for growth in the low-cost segment in emerging markets given the platform's low barrier to entry on manufacturing. At the same time, top-tier companies like Samsung, Lenovo, and ASUS are all launching Android tablets with comparable specs, but offered at much lower price points."

IDC also predicted that both Android and iOS will slip in market share by 2016 as Microsoft Windows-powered tablets inch their way into double digits. For 2016, IDC predicted that iOS would have a market share of 49.7 percent, Android 39.7 percent, and Windows 10.3 percent. (For 2012, IDC forecast Windows tablets to make up just 2.9 percent of the market.) Windows tablets include those powered by Windows 7, Windows RT, and Windows 8.

The stronger-than-expected growth in the tablet market will not be without its victims. IDC said the growth will come at the expense of dedicated front-lit e-readers, such as those from Barnes & Noble and Amazon. E-reader shipments are now expected to reach 19.9 million units in 2012, down from the previous forecast of 27.7 percent.


About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

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