The iPad has dominated the tablet market since Apple introduced it and doing so established the market. But in 2013 that's going to change, according to a Jan. 7 report from research firm NPD DisplaySearch.
While Apple has dominated, "shifting market dynamics are creating the opportunity for a greater variety of choices, which will drive shipment growth in 2013 to 64 percent year-over-year," said the report.
Such swift growth means tablet shipments will, for the first time, outpace global shipments of notebook PCs. NPD expects about 207 million notebooks to ship globally, compared with the 240 million tablets forecast to make their way into businesses, schools and homes.
"The tablet market has been led by Apple's 9.7-inch iPad, but in 2013, a new class of small tablets will take over the market," said the report.
NPD expects tablets with 7- to 8-inch screen sizes to account for 45 percent, or 108 million, of the tablets to ship this year, while the 9.7-inch form factor takes just a 17 percent share, or slips to 41 million units.
China, now the world's largest smartphone market, is expected to show an also increased demand for tablets. In 2012, China outpaced the EMEA market—Europe, the Middle East and Africa—and in 2013, it's expected to account for 27 percent of the global tablet market, or 65 million units, with sales motivated not by Apple but "small local brands," wrote NPD.
North America is currently the largest tablet market and is expected to demand 85 million units, or a 35 percent share of the tablet market. In 2012, tablet shipments had already outpaced notebooks in the United States and China.
"The tablet PC market saw increasing investments in North America in the second half of 2012, from major brands that tested not only new screen sizes and price points, but also unconventional business models to support their efforts," Richard Shim, senior analyst with NPD DisplaySearch, said in a statement. "The subsequent increase in shipments and demand underscored the benefits of segmentation in the market as it drove rapid market expansion."
Apple was among the brands investigating new screen sizes and price points.
On Oct. 23, ending months if not years of rumors, Apple introduced the iPad Mini, which features a 7.9-inch display and a starting price of $329. The Mini, along with an updated 9.7-inch iPad, went on sale Nov. 2, and in three days, Apple sold more than "3 million iPads" it said in a Nov. 5 announcement, preferring to lump the lot together rather than offer a breakdown.
NPD noted that notebook sales have been slowing for a time, and in the second half of 2012, that was also true in developing regions, which until then had helped keep the industry's numbers from falling off dramatically.
That said, the report continued, "The second half of 2013 may provide a respite [for notebook makers] as new processors aim to bring more tablet PC-like features, such as instant on, all-day battery life and sleep form factors, to notebook PCs."