Tablets are leaving notebook PCs in the dust.
NPD DisplaySearch today released a forecast predicting that in 2014, worldwide tablets shipments will reach 364 million units. By comparison, shipments of notebook PCs -- including ultrabooks and other "ultra-slim PCs" -- will reach 177 million. Earlier this year, the research firm predicted that tablets would outpace PCs in 2013.
In essence, for every notebook PC shipped next year, two tablets will wend their way to store shelves.
"The PC market is clearly shifting away from notebooks and toward tablets. Supply chain indications reveal that previously planned production of notebook PCs is being pulled back due to declining adoption and that brands are gradually increasing the number of tablet PC models in their product mixes," said NPD DisplaySearch senior analyst Richard Shim in a company statement.
Shim added, "Panel and finished goods suppliers are also increasing production of displays and other components for tablets in order to keep up with the market changes."
Tablets vendors' efforts to mainstream computing slates will clearly pay off. The gap will be even more pronounced in 2017. Tablets shipments are expected to reach 589 million units, more than triple the 176 million notebooks that are projected to ship that year.
The market is being driven, in part, by the growing popularity of small tablets (under 8 inches) like the fast-selling iPad Mini. With shipments of 166 million units, small slates will account for 59 of the market this year. In 2015, 277 million small tablets are expected to ship, representing 63 percent of the market.
"Smaller tablets are important, because they will encourage adoption in emerging regions. Smaller screen sizes translate to lower priced tablet-PC options, since display panels tend to comprise just over a third of the total cost of a tablet, which makes them attractive in price-sensitive markets," stated Shim.
Tablet demand is particularly taking off in emerging regions, according to the market research group. Affordable prices, portability and long-lasting battery life are enticing first-time PC buyers, causing them to skip PCs altogether.
Looking ahead, NPD DisplaySearch anticipates more options in terms of screen size and a boom in mid-range tablets. "New tablet PC screen sizes will include both 8” and 7.5” sizes, and manufacturers are expected to focus on tablets with prices that are attractive to middle-income buyers," stated the company.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.