Was launching the iPad Mini a shrewd move?
Apple's stab at the small screen tablet market, along with an avalanche of Android models, have prompted IDC to revise its 2012 worldwide tablet forecast by 5 million units. The research group now expects tablet shipments to reach 122.3 million this year, up from its previous prediction of 117.1 million units.
And from there, the market has nowhere to go but up.
Smaller, palm-friendly slates are a hit with tablet buyers, said IDC research director Tom Mainelli. "Tablets continue to captivate consumers, and as the market shifts toward smaller, more mobile screen sizes and lower prices points, we expect demand to accelerate in the fourth quarter and beyond," he wrote in a company statement.
Mainelli adds, "Android tablets are gaining traction in the market thanks to solid products from Google, Amazon, Samsung, and others. And Apple's November iPad mini launch, along with its surprise refresh of the full-sized iPad, positions the company well for a strong holiday season."
Next year, IDC expects that tablet shipments will reach 172.4 million units, up 6.5 million units from its prior predictions. By 2016, tablet makers will ship 282.7 million tablets, a sizeable increase from the 261.4 million units that IDC previously forecast.
The revisions spell good news for tablet makers, particularly those that are pumping out models that run Google's Android mobile operating system. Android's share of the tablet market will reach 42.7 percent this year compared to 39.8 percent in 2011.
"Android tablet shipments will certainly act as the catalyst for growth in the low-cost segment in emerging markets given the platform's low barrier to entry on manufacturing. At the same time, top-tier companies like Samsung, Lenovo, and ASUS are all launching Android tablets with comparable to premium products, but offered at much lower price points," Mainelli explained.
Android's gain is Apple's pain. The iPad's share of the market will slide to 53.8 percent in 2012, from 56.3 percent last year, predicts IDC.
The research firm also says that Windows tablets like the Surface will become less of a rarity in the coming years. Microsoft's touch-friendly Windows 8 and RT operating systems (and some Windows 7 stragglers) will power 2.9 percent of tablets in 2012 and climb to 10.2 percent in 2016.