With the long-awaited Apple iPad Mini tablet finally on the market, a plethora of devices running Google's Android operating system finding favor with consumers, and Microsoft's late entry in the race, the Surface, now available, IDC increased its 2012 forecast for the worldwide tablet market to 122.3 million units, up from its previous forecast of 117.1 million.
IDC forecasts tablet sales will reach 172.4 million units in 2013, up from the 165.9 million units previously predicted, while by 2016 worldwide shipments should reach 282.7 million units, up from a previous forecast of 261.4 million units.
"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," Tom Mainelli, IDC's research director for tablets, said in a 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."
The increase in tablet shipments comes at the expense of e-readers, the report noted. IDC once again lowered its forecast for e-readers for 2012 and beyond, despite the fact that offerings from Amazon and Barnes & Noble have captured the interest of a subset of consumers who prefer a dedicated device for digital books.
However, the report noted most buyers are gravitating toward multi-use tablet products and finding a "good enough" reading experience on traditional backlit tablets, as opposed to frontlit e-readers. IDC expects 2012 e-reader shipments to top out at 19.9 million units, down from the 27.7 million units that shipped in 2011.
As the tablet market continues to pick up steam, competing operating systems highlight a changing landscape, with Android continuing to pick up market share at the expense of Apple. Android is forecast to account for 42.7 percent of the tablet market for the full year of 2012, up from 39.8 percent in 2011, while Apple's share will slip from 56.3 percent in 2011 to 53.8 percent in 2012. Microsoft is expected to slowly take share away from Android and Apple devices, reaching 10.2 percent market share by 2016, IDC forecast.
"The breadth and depth of Android has taken full effect on the tablet market as it has for the smartphone space," Ryan Reith, IDC's Mobile Device Trackers program manager, said. "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 to premium products, but offered at much lower price points."