The iOS operating system has been dominant in tablet PCs, but it is expected to lose share as Android devices flourish.
Tablet PC shipments are expected to increase more than fivefold, from 81.6 million units in 2011 to 424.9 million units by 2017, according to a new report from NPD DisplaySearch.
The market research firm revised its forecast for 2013 shipments from 168.9 million units to 184.2 million, led by sales of Apple's iPad and Google Android-based tablets.
So far in this relatively young product category, the tablet PC market has been dominated by Apple and has tended to include a number of competing products that are similarly configured to the iPad, NPD DisplaySearch senior analyst Richard Shim said in a statement. However, as the market matures and competitors become better attuned to consumer preferences and find opportunities to break new ground, we expect the landscape to change dramatically, giving consumers more choices, which will drive demand for more devices.
NPD DisplaySearch sees room for differentiation in operating systems. Apple's iOS operating system has been dominant in tablets, but it is expected to lose share, from 72.1 percent in 2012 to 50.9 percent in 2017, as Android-based devices gain ground, from 22.5 percent share in 2012 to 40.5 percent over the same period. Meanwhile, share for Windows RT is also expected to grow, but from a very small base of 1.5 percent in 2012 to 7.5 percent in 2017, according to NPD DisplaySearch.
"A growing diversity of operating systems is driving the increase in demand for tablets, as well as rapidly evolving features," NPD DisplaySearch said. "At the same time, the capacity of component manufacturing is being increased to meet new market demand."
NPD DisplaySearch expects increased investments in the tablet supply chainamid a lull in the growth of other device categories. The research firm predicts that in 2016 more tablet PCs will be shipped than notebook PCs.
In a recent report, Futuresource Consulting said consumers still see the tablet as an addition to conventional PCs or Macs rather than as a replacement. However, the report notes that tablets have cannibalized the demand for netbooks.
Futuresource estimates that global tablet sales exceeded 64 million units in 2011 and are on track to reach 232 million units in 2016. Futuresource projects tablet sales will increase by 200 percent in the next two years and tablet apps will account for 20 percent of mobile apps by 2016.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.