Worldwide media tablet sales will reach 19.4 million units in 2010, according to a new research note from Gartner. That's good news for manufacturers such as Apple, maker of the iPad, which is driving much of that growth. However, Gartner also said tablet sales are having a negative impact on sales of other mobile devices such as e-readers and mininotebooks.
"The all-in-one nature of media tablets will result in the cannibalization of other consumer electronics devices such as e-readers, gaming devices and media players," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said in an Oct. 15 statement. "Mininotebooks will suffer from the strongest cannibalization threat as media tablet average selling prices (ASPs) drop below $300 over the next two years."
But Gartner expects that low-end consumer notebooks and communication devices based on an open-source operating system-in other words, Google Android-will experience lower rates of cannibalization. The presence of 7-inch tablet PCs could impact the higher-end smartphone market, the research note added, although consumers "buying a 7-inch tablet might opt for a lower-priced smartphone with a smaller form factor."
The research note predicted that tablet PC sales would increase from 19.4 million units in 2010 to 54.7 million in 2011, then 103.4 million in 2012, and finally 208 million in 2014. About 61 percent of those sales in 2010 are expected to come from the North American market, but Gartner expects that percentage to dip to 43 percent by 2014.
"As media tablets move from early adopters to mainstream, media tablets will become a family purchase as well as a personal one," Gartner said. "The touch user interface, the applications available on the different operating systems and the simpler setup compared to a full-fledged computer make media tablets ideal for a range of consumers, from power users to technophobics." Gartner also said it sees the cost of tablet PCs gradually declining over the long term, as carrier subsidies for the devices increase.
"Communication service providers (CSPs) who have so far subsidized mininotebooks to drive mobile broadband uptake will shift their marketing [spending] to media tablets," Milanesi wrote. "Such subsidies will help drive adoption among those consumers who see the initial hardware cost as a hurdle."
Other analysts have suggested that tablets are putting pressure on the traditional notebook market, although many seem reluctant to use the term "cannibalization."
"Sales of traditional notebooks appear to be feeling pressure from the iPad, causing a scramble by vendors to launch iPad-like tablets," USB analyst Maynard Um wrote in a Sept. 8 research note. "We believe that a majority of this impact is occurring on the lower end of PC sales, as the iPad is priced close enough to this range that it becomes attractive to consumers looking to make purchases within this segment."
Um estimated sales of 28 million iPads in 2011, while Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty predicted the overall tablet market will hit 50 million units. "We expect tablets to continue to pressure PCs as more vendors launch products (e.g., Dell Streak and Samsung Tab) and Apple expands its iPad distribution," Huberty wrote in a recent research note, as quoted by Fortune Magazine Sept. 17.
A handful of manufacturers, including Samsung and Research In Motion, are expected to introduce tablet PCs within the next few months. It is also widely expected that Apple will unveil a revamped iPad at some point in the near future.