Tablet sales skyrocketing, driven by iPad mini, Android demand

IDC raises its estimate for the total number of tablets to be sold worldwide in 2012 from 117.5 million to 122.3 million

The latest predictions from researcher IDC show a continuing increase in tablet sales from the end of 2012 all the way through 2016, according to the company's latest Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker.

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IDC raised its estimate for the total number of tablets to be sold worldwide in 2012 from 117.5 million to 122.3 million, on the basis of strong demand for the Apple iPad mini and growing Android sales numbers. The company also upped its 2013 prediction from 165.9 million units to 172.4 million, and its 2016 figure from 261.4 million to 282.7 million.

"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," said IDC tablet research director Tom Mainelli in a statement.

IDC's researchers also predicted that Android-based devices would account for a larger proportion of tablet sales than they had in previous years. The company's estimate gives Android tablets 42.7% of the global market for 2012, compared to 39.8% in 2011, while Apple's share is predicted to decline from 56.3% to 53.8% at the same time.

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Ryan Reith, who manages IDC's mobile device trackers, says that shifting form factors are partially responsible for this change.

"The breadth and depth of Android has taken full effect on the tablet market as it has for the smartphone space. 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," he says.

Nevertheless, the relative market shares of the two leading platforms will both decrease slightly as time goes by, according to IDC. By 2016, the company's researchers said, Android and iOS will both surrender minor amounts of market share to Windows, which will account for 10.3% of sales at that time.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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