Tablet Sales Growing More Than Expected: IDC Raises Its Forecast

Some 117 million tablet computers will be sold in 2012 around the world and another 165 million will be purchased in 2013, based on newly-increased sales forecasts from IDC.

With tablet computers flying off the shelves around the world as 2012 comes to a close, research firm IDC has revised its sales forecasts for tablet sales through 2013, raising its numbers substantially based on strong consumer demand.

In its latest Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker report, IDC hiked its forecast for the worldwide tablet market in 2012 to 117.1 million units, up from its previous forecast of 107.4 million units for the year. At the same time, IDC also revised and raised forecast numbers for 2013, increasing the expected number of tablets sold to 165.9 million units from its original estimate of 142.8 million units. The new report was released Sept. 19.

That market growth will continue, according to IDC's data, with worldwide shipments by 2016 expected to reach 261.4 million units.

"Despite ongoing economic concerns in most regions of the world, consumers continue to buy tablets in record numbers and we expect particularly strong demand in the fourth quarter," Tom Mainelli, a mobile connected devices analyst with IDC, said in a statement.

"Apple leads the market with its iPad and we expect its dominance to continue in the second half of the year. Still, we believe there is room in the market for others to find success, and new Android- and Windows-based products shipping in the coming months will give consumers plenty of buying options during the holiday season."

Apple tablets took 57.2 percent of the market in 2011, according to IDC, and will capture about 60 percent in 2012. By 2016, Apple is expected to slip back to about 58 percent of the market as competitors raise their challenges. In 2011, Android had a 38.9 percent market share, which will slip to 35.3 percent in 2012, IDC reports. Android's share will decline to 30.5 percent by 2016.

Meanwhile, Windows tablets (including Windows 7 tablets today and upcoming Windows 8 and RT models) will grow from about 1 percent of the market in 2011 to 4 percent in 2012, according to IDC. By 2016, Windows tablets are expected to capture 11 percent of the market.

"Tablets running Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 and RT operating systems, including the company's own Surface tablets, will add some momentum," Jennifer Song, an IDC research analyst, said in a statement. "However, we expect shipments to remain low in the fourth quarter as high prices and consumer confusion around these devices will limit their appeal. Also, in the second half of the year Android should benefit from the success of the Nexus 7 and Amazon's launch of new Kindle Fires."

At the same time, IDC reported that e-reader sales forecasts for 2012 are being "significantly lowered" due to the arrival of more flexible tablet computers that be purchased by users for less than $200. Those inexpensive tablets will help cause 2012 e-reader shipments to top out at 23.6 million units, down from the 27.7 million units that shipped in 2011, according to IDC.

A similar report in April by Futuresource Consulting forecast tablet sales in the United States to grow by 200 percent through 2016. Global tablet sales exceeded 64 million units in 2011 and are on track to soar to 232 million units in 2016, based on the company's Tablet Technology and Markets report.

The Futuresource report agreed that tablets have cannibalized the demand for netbooks, but consumers still see the tablet device as an addition to conventional PCs or Macs rather than a replacement.