Apple iPad Will Lead Tablet Race Through 2016: IDC

By Alexandra Burlacu | Dec 06, 2012 10:59 AM EST

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Research firm IDC has raised its forecast for tablet shipments through 2016, while projecting that Apple will maintain its lead over Google's Android.

IDC predicted 2012 tablet shipments of 122.3 million units, up from the previous 117.1 million estimate. Moreover, the firm expects tablet shipments to surge to 282.7 million in 2016, upping its previous forecast of 261.4 million.

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Although IDC expects Apple to remain the undisputed leader through 2016, it also sees devices running Microsoft's Windows OS for tablets gaining share at the expense of iPads and Android tablets. For 2013, meanwhile, the firm's estimates climbed from 165.9 million to 172.4 million. The research firm raised its tablet forecast on Wednesday, Dec. 5.

"Android tablets are gaining traction in the market thanks to solid products from Google, Amazon, Samsung, and others," said Tom Mainelli, IDC's research director for Tablets. "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."

IDC expects Apple to own 53.8 percent of the market in 2012, down from 56.3 percent. Meanwhile, Android's share is expected to climb from 39.8 percent last year to 42.7 percent in 2012, leaving Windows and other tablet platforms with a meager 2.9 percent.

Android tablets have enjoyed tremendous growth in 2012. At the same time, however, that growth has slowed dramatically from 2011, when Android surged from less than 20 percent to nearly 40 percent. IDC did not speculate on the potential reasons behind the more sluggish growth, but expects cheap Android tablets to play a major role.

"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-segment in emerging markets given the platform's low barrier to entry on manufacturing," said Ryan Reith, IDC's Mobile Device Trackers program manager. "At the same time, top-tier companies like Samsung, Lenovo, and ASUS are all launching Android tablets with comparable specs, but offered at much lower price points.

IDC is predicting that Apple will have maintained 49.7 percent of the market by 2016, i.e. a 4.1 percentage point decline from 2012, after four years of fierce competition against Android. Meanwhile, the firm is projecting Android's share will have dropped to 39.7 percent by 2016, and Microsoft's Windows share will have gained 10.3 percent.

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