Tablet Shipments to Pass Laptops by 2016, Fueling PC Market Growth

Led by the Apple iPad, tablets are expected to be a bright spot of the PC market, with shipments exceeding those of laptops by 2016.

Shipments of tablets such as the Apple iPad are on track to surpass shipments of laptops by 2016, NPD reported July 3. By 2017, the firm expects PC shipments to have grown from 347 million units in 2012 to 809 million units, laptop shipments to have increased from 208 million to 293 million units, and tablets to have jumped from 121 million units to 416 million units, representing an annual growth rate of 28 percent.

NPD Senior Analyst Richard Shim believes consumer preference for mobile computing devices is shifting from notebook to tablet PCs, and new entrants are tending to launch their tablets in mature markets€”such as the United States, Japan and Europe€”where consumer response is the strongest.

€œServices and infrastructure needed to create compelling new usage models are often better established in mature markets,€ Shim added.

Google is the newest entrant to the tablet party. On June 27 it introduced the Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet running, Jelly Bean, a brand-new version of its Android operating system. While it was expected that Google would take aim at the Apple iPad€”which during the first quarter of 2012 grabbed a 68 percent slice of the market, according to figures by IDC€”the Nexus 7, with its starting price of $199, poses a far greater threat to the Amazon Kindle Fire.

Amazon introduced the Fire in November 2011, and the tablet sold shockingly well, enabling Amazon to jump ahead of Samsung and its Galaxy Tab. During the first quarter of 2012, however, it was unable to sustain its momentum, and Amazon€™s market share fell to just over 4 percent, from nearly 17 percent the quarter before.

Joining the fray later this year will be tablets running Microsoft€™s Windows 8. On June 18, Microsoft stepped out ahead of its hardware partners and roiled up the first real excitement for these devices, with the introduction of its own tablet. The Surface, say analysts, represents Microsoft€™s understanding of Apple€™s tremendous share of the tablet market and its decision to take the matter of more effectively competing with Apple into its own hands.

Moving forward, tablets are expected to further evolve into stronger laptop alternatives, says NPD. Manufacturers are expected to build on tablet features, such as instant-on capabilities, long battery life and extreme portability, adding multi-core processors, growing application libraries and higher-resolution displays€”a bar Apple has raised with the Retina display on the third-generation iPad€”and more stable operating systems.

The tablets are also expected to encourage changes in laptops, which will further slim down, incorporate more touch-based functionality and gain higher-resolution displays.

With the iPad in the lead€”where analysts expect it to remain for the next several years€”NPD expects tablet shipments in mature markets to reach 110 million by 2013, exceed 150,000 by 2014 and reach 254 million units by 2017, with shipments in emerging markets rising each year as well, on track to reach 162 million by 2017.

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