SAN FRANCISCO—International Data Corp. (IDC) this boosted its forecast for the tablet market citing a predicted surge of smaller, lower-priced tablets.
IDC (Framingham, Mass.) said it now expects about 190.9 million tablets to ship this year, up from a previous forecast of 172.4 million. The firm said it expects tablet shipments to increase by an average of 11 percent per year between 2013 and 2016, reaching more than 350 million by the end of 2017.
"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," said Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst for IDC's tablet tracker report, in a statement. "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."
Android-based tablets expanded their market share significantly in 2012. IDC said it expects that trend to continue this year. The firm forecasts that Android-based tablets will command 49 percent of the tablet market this year, an increase from IDC's previous forecast of 42 percent.
Android's market share gains are expected to come at Apple's expense. Apple's iPad tablet is expected to account for 46 percent of the tablet market this year, down from 51 percent last year, IDC said.
In the long term, IDC said it expects that both iOS and Android will relinquish some market share to Windows-based tablets. Windows 8 is predicted to grow from 1 percent of the market in 2012 to 7 percent by 2017, the firm said. IDC said it expects Windows RT growth to remain below 3 percent through 2017.
"Microsoft's decision to push two different tablet operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, has yielded poor results in the market so far," said Tom Mainelli, IDC research director for tablets. "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."
At the same time IDC is revising its tablet forecast upward, the firm said it is cutting its forecast for e-readers. The firm believes that e-reader shipments peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units. After a decline in 2012, IDC believes e-reader shipments will grow modestly in 2013 and 2014 before a permanent decline beginning in 2015.
The growth of low-cost tablets is clearly damaging the prospects of the single-use e-reader, IDC said.