Shipments of tablets, led by Apple's iPad, have grown at such an unprecedented pace that they are now projected to outpace traditional notebook PCs worldwide this year.
The latest data from NPD DisplaySearch calls for the tablet market to surpass notebooks in 2013. Tablets are expected to reach shipments of 240 million units this year, while 207 million notebooks will be shipped.
DisplaySearch noted that to date the iPad market has been "dominated by one major player, Apple." But the research firm expects that competitors will grow this year, leading total shipments to rise 64 percent year over year.
"The tablet market has been led by Apple's 9.7-inch iPad, but in 2013 a new class of small tablets will take over the market," DisplaySearch said. "Tablet PCs with 7-to-8-inch screen sizes are expected to account for 45 percent, or 108 million units of the market in 2013, overtaking the 9.7-inch size which will account for 17 percent share or about 41 million units."
The largest market is expected to remain North America, with a 35 percent share of shipments and 85 million total units. But close behind will be China, forecast to see 65 million units and 27 percent share.
Both countries are already ahead of the curve: tablet shipments outpaced notebook PCs in 2012.
The latest prediction from NPD DisplaySearch shows just how quickly the market has changed. It was six months ago, in July 2012, that the same organization predicted that it would take until 2016 for tablets to surpass notebook shipments.
But on Wednesday, DisplaySearch noted that notebook PC shipments have continued to slow, even in emerging markets, while tablets continue to grow.
"The tablet PC market saw increasing investments in North America in the second half of 2012, from major brands that tested not only new screen sizes and price points, but also unconventional business models to support their efforts," said Richard Shim, senior analyst with NPD DisplaySearch. The subsequent increase in shipments and demand underscored the benefits of segmentation in the market as it drove rapid market expansion. In 2013, further investments are expected worldwide, stoking demand to the point that tablet PC shipments will exceed those of notebook PCs."