Although Apple has been at the forefront of the tablet revolution, low-cost Android devices are fueling the current market expansion, according to IDC's latest Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker.
IDC forecasts that tablet shipments will grow 58.7 percent to 229.3 million units in 2013 from 144.5 million units last year. The research firm currently predicts tablet shipments will exceed those of portable PCs this year as the slumping PC market is expected to see negative growth for the second consecutive year. In addition, IDC said it expects tablet shipments to outpace the entire PC market (portables and desktops combined) by 2015.
"What started as a sign of tough economic times has quickly shifted to a change in the global computing paradigm, with mobile being the primary benefactor," Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobility Trackers, said in a statement. "Tablets surpassing portables in 2013, and total PCs in 2015, marks a significant change in consumer attitudes about compute devices and the applications and ecosystems that power them.
"IDC continues to believe that PCs will have an important role in this new era of computing, especially among business users. But for many consumers, a tablet is a simple and elegant solution for core use cases that were previously addressed by the PC," Reith stated.
IDC said it expects tablet prices to continue to decline, which the firm said would allow vendors to deliver a more viable computing experience into the hands of many more people at price points the PC industry has strived to meet for years. In 2013, the worldwide average selling price (ASP) for tablets is expected to decline 10.8 percent, to $381. In comparison, the ASP of a PC in 2013 is nearly double that, at $635, according to IDC.
Another major shift in the tablet market has occurred around screen sizes. Apple was first out of the gate with the 9.7-inch iPad, which revolutionized the tablet market and was perceived as the ideal size device.
However, smaller-form-factor tablets in the 7-inch range, led by Android devices and Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, exploded to overtake the larger-sized segment in terms of total shipments. Apple has since responded with its own 7-inch tablet, the iPad Mini. The IDC report projects the trend toward smaller sizes will continue.
"Apple's success in the education market has proven that tablets can be used as more than just a content consumption or gaming device," Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst for IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, said in a statement. "These devices are learning companions, and as tablet prices continue to drop, the dream of having a PC for every child gets replaced with the reality that we can actually provide a tablet for every child."