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Forget previous tablet market forecasts. Market research outfit IDC foresees that an impending flood of small, low-cost tablets is set to break sales records.
According to IDC, the worldwide tablet market will reach 190.9 million units, up from the company's earlier estimate of 172.4 million units. What prompted the change? The popularity of small tablets like the iPad Mini, said IDC.
Tablet shoppers are increasingly choosing compact computing slates over full-sized tablets. And tablet makers have taken notice, observed IDC research analyst Jitesh Ubrani.
"One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below 8 inches in screen size. And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond. Vendors are moving quickly to compete in this space as consumers realize that these small devices are often more ideal than larger tablets for their daily consumption habits," said Ubrani in a company statement.
This trend lines up with observations from NDP's DisplaySearch service. Full-size tablet displays tanked in January while 7- and 7.9-inch panel shipments skyrocketed to 14 million units. DisplaySearch vice president David Hsieh now believes that the iPad Mini is poised to become Apple's tablet sales leader at the expense of its big brother.
"Apple had planned to sell 40M iPad minis (7.9") and 60M iPads (9.7") in 2013. However, the reality seems to be the reverse, as the iPad mini has been more popular than the iPad. We now understand that Apple may be planning to sell 55M iPad minis (7.9") and 33M iPads (9.7") in 2013," wrote Hsieh.
By the time the end of 2017 rolls around, IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker service expects tablet shipments to reach 350 million units. And the big winner in this explosive market: Google's Android operating system.
Android will peak at 48.8 percent of the tablet market this year. Apple iOS, by comparison, will fall to 46 percent this year from 51 percent in 2012, giving up its reign on the tablet scene.
Microsoft's moves will start to pay off. "Longer term, both iOS and Android will eventually relinquish some market share to Windows-based tablets, with Windows 8 predicted to grow from 1 percent of the market in 2012 to 7.4 percent in 2017," stated IDC.
Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 for ARM-based devices, won't fare as well. The company doesn't expect the OS to cross the 3 percent mark, reason enough for Microsoft to chalk up Windows RT as a failed effort, according IDC research director Tom Mainelli.
"Consumers aren't buying Windows RT's value proposition, and long term we think Microsoft and its partners would be better served by focusing their attention on improving Windows 8. Such a focus could drive better share growth in the tablet category down the road," noted Mainelli in a statement.