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Tablet demand continues to grow, opening up opportunities for vendors: report

With demand for tablets expected to be particularly strong in the fourth quarter, International Data Corp. has raised its forecast for worldwide tablets shipments to 117.1 million units in 2012, up from its previous forecast of 107.4 million units.

IDC expects tablet growth to continue over the next few years and has raised its forecast through 2016. The research company also expects Windows tablets to gain some momentum over the next couple of years.

?Quarter over quarter, we find growth in the tablet market continuing and demand continuing,? said Tom Mainelli, research director for mobile connected devices at IDC, Framingham, MA. ?So we have revised upward our forecast for the second half of 2012 and for the following years as a result of the demand.

?We expect Apple to remain dominant in the category but there are new players entering the market later this year and established players stepping up their game, so there is plenty of opportunity for other vendors in the space,? he said.

Many uses for tablets
In the latest forecast update to its Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, IDC revised its 2013 forecast upward from 142.8 million units to 165.9 million units. By 2016, the company expects worldwide shipments to reach 261.4 million units.

Driving the growth in shipments is the ongoing strong interest in tablets from consumers despite the weak economy in many parts of the world.

?Consumers are finding more and more ways to use these devices due in part to the explosion in apps created for tablets,? Mr. Mainelli said. ?For example, people are carrying them into work and figuring out ways to use them for work-related tasks.

?The other thing is that as people buy new tablets, they are not necessarily retiring old tablets,? he said. ?They are more willing to upgrade to an iPad 3 because they can give the iPad 2 to their spouse.?

Apple dominates
While Apple will continue to lead the market with its iPad, IDC believes there is room in the market for others to find success, particularly Android- and Windows-based products.

There are a number of new Android- and Windows-based tablets shipping in the coming months, which should give consumer plenty of buying options during the 2012 holiday season.

The iPad will end 2012 with a 60 percent share of the tablet market in 2012 but by 2016, IDC expects the iPad?s share to drop to 58 percent as other tablets gain.

The slip will be even greater for Android, which IDC forecasts will see its share of the market drop to 35.3 percent in 2012, from 38.9 percent last year. By 2016, Android will drop to 30.5 percent of the market.

IDC expects Android to get a boost in the second half of 2012 from the Nexus 7 and the new Kindle Fires.

Windows tablets to grow
The research company is also now including Windows-based tablets in its research and forecasts a promising growth curve for them over the next few years.

Windows tablets, which include Windows 7 tablets, Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets shipping in the fourth quarter of 2012 are expected to grow from about one percent of the market in 2011 to four percent in 2012. By 2016, IDC Windows tablets to account for 11 percent of the market.

Shipments for Windows tablets will remain slow in the fourth quarter of 2012 as high prices and consumer confusion limit their appeal.

At the same time, IDC expects shipments for ereaders to decline this year as consumers gravitate toward tablets priced under $200 instead.

Ereaders had a disappointing first half and IDC expects ereader shipments in 2012 to reach 23.6 million, down from the 27.7 million units that shipped in 2011.

?One of the things a marketer should take away from this is that apps that run on tablets should be different than apps that run on phones,? Mr. Mainelli said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York