Demand for tablets has never been higher

A strong competitive market – including surging Android tablet shipments and robust demand for Apple’s iPad mini – has prompted analysts at IDC to revise their 2012 projection for the worldwide tablet market.

According to Tom Mainelli, the forecast for 2012 recently hit 122.3 million, up from previous estimates of 117.1 million units.

Meanwhile, projections for 2013 were increased to 172.4 million units, up from 165.9 million. units. And by 2016 worldwide shipments are expected to reach 282.7 million units, up from a previous forecast of 261.4 million units.

“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,” Mainelli explained.

“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.”

Unsurprisingly, IDC also expects Android’s worldwide tablet share to increase from 39.8% in 2011 to 42.7% for the full year of 2012. Meanwhile, Apple’s share is projected to slip from 56.3% in 2011 to 53.8% in 2012.

And what about Microsoft’s share of the lucrative market? Well, IDC predicts that Windows-based tablets (including Windows 8 and Windows RT) will grab share from both (Apple) iOS and (Google) Android, growing from 1% of the market in 2011 to 2.9% in 2012, on its way to 10.2% in 2016.

“The breadth and depth of Android has taken full effect on the tablet market as it has for the smartphone space,” said IDC analyst Ryan Reith

“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.”

Reith also confirmed that eReader demand is on the wane as the popularity of tablets increase exponentially.

“While the front-lit eReader offerings from Amazon and Barnes & Noble have captured the interest of a subset of consumers who prefer a dedicated eReader, most buyers are gravitating toward multi-use tablet products and finding a ‘good enough’ reading experience on these traditional back-lit tablets,” Reith added.

“[We] now expects 2012 eReader shipments to top out at 19.9 million units, down from the 27.7 million units that shipped in 2011.”