One-Third of U.S. Adults To Own a Tablet by 2016
Forrester Research forecasts that 34.3 percent of all U.S. adults will own a media tablet by 2016 -- when the firm's analysts expect 60.3 million units to ship to American consumers. The research firm also foresees similar trends for tablet sales in Europe, where 30.4 percent of consumers are expected to own tablets by 2016.
"With an assumed replacement rate of two years, cumulative unit sales will be much higher," Forrester Senior Analyst Sarah Rotman Epps wrote in a blog. "In the U.S., we forecast that consumers will buy 292.5 million tablets from 2010 to 2016."
Most industry analysts foresee Apple remaining atop the tablet market for the foreseeable future. Established Android tablet vendors such as HTC, Motorola, Samsung and Sony are expected to continue to trail far behind the market lead.
The upwardly revised tablet sales estimates from Forrester are due in part to the introduction of the Kindle Fire by Amazon and the Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble. "Both devices, in our view, expand the addressable market for tablets with their significantly lower-than-iPad price points," Rotman Epps wrote.
A Business Sales Opportunity
On the other hand, Apple could recapture any market share lost to the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet by launching a less-expensive iPad with a smaller screen.
"Reports from Apple's Taiwanese suppliers suggest that Apple is testing smaller screen sizes than the current 9.7-inch iPad -- perhaps a 7.85-inch version," Rotman Epps said in a new Forrester report released Tuesday. "While 62 percent of tablet shoppers say that they'd prefer a 10-inch screen, 26 percent say that they'd prefer a smaller screen, and an additional 20 percent are undecided."
However, attracting price conscious consumers in the U.S. and abroad isn't the only opportunity for tablet vendors to increase market share. According to industry observers, a significant chunk of the media tablet growth ahead will be driven by sales to businesses.
"More than 70 million information workers in the U.S. and Europe will be tucking tablets into their work bag by 2016," Forrester Research Vice President Ted Schadler wrote in a blog post Wednesday.
Waiting in the Wings
Making accurate tablet unit shipment predictions is somewhat problematic right now because there are no benchmarks for gauging the impact that Windows 8 will have on the tablet market. Slated for launch later this year, Microsoft's next-generation OS is designed to run on traditional laptop and desktop PCs as well as ARM-based tablets.
"It's telling that more consumers still say they'd prefer to buy a Windows tablet than an Android one," Rotman Epps noted. "Android OEMs would do best to dial down their investment in Android and shift investment to Windows to leverage Microsoft's still-strong consumer brand, enterprise acceptance and global scale."
Microsoft executives attending CeBIT this week promoted the software giant's Windows 8 strategy of "unifying the user experiences" across multiple platforms while maintaining enterprise-class security and device-management capabilities. They also pitched the enterprise benefits of supplying sales reps with Windows 8 tablets that can be docked to a traditional keyboard and mouse in a home or business office.
So the launch of Windows 8 later this year promises to further complicate the task of precisely defining just what constitutes a PC. Nevertheless, Gartner expects to continue tracking media tablet sales and PC unit shipments separately.
"Windows 8 based tablet devices will not be included under PCs in our research, but will be included under media tablets," said Mika Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner.