Will tablets ever be more popular than notebooks?

Tablet sales may very well outpace notebook PC shipments by 2016, at least according to analysts at NPD DisplaySearch.

Indeed, tablet shipments are projected to increase from 81.6 million units in 2011 to 424.9 million by 2017 – with the forecast for 2013 shipments jumping from 168.9 million to 184.2 million.

According to NPD DisplaySearch Senior Analyst Richard Shim, a growing diversity of operating systems is driving the increase in demand for tablets, as well as rapidly evolving features. 

“So far in this relatively young product category, the tablet PC market has been dominated by Apple and tended to include a number of competing products that are similarly configured to the iPad,” he explained.

“However, as the market matures and competitors become better attuned to consumer preferences and find opportunities to break new ground, we expect the landscape to change dramatically, giving consumers more choices, which will drive demand for more devices.”

To be sure, says Shim, the industry has already witnessed some diversification in the market with the early success of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, as it offers a “razor/razor blade model” of low-priced device predicated on content purchases.

“A key area where there is room for differentiation is operating systems. NPD DisplaySearch expects three operating systems to establish significant share in the market: Apple iOS, Google Android, and Microsoft Windows RT. 

“The iOS operating system has been dominant in tablet PCs, but it is expected to lose share, from 72.1% in 2012 to 50.9% in 2017, as Android increases from 22.5% 2012 to 40.5% over the same period. Meanwhile, share for Windows RT is also expected to grow, but from a very small base of 1.5% in 2012 to 7.5% in 2017,” he added.