The tablet market is led by Apple's iPad, with the Amazon Kindle Fire… (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)
Shipments of tablets are on track to grow more than fivefold over the next five years, according to a study released Thursday.
[Updated, 6:47 a.m. May 3: According to a quarterly report from NPD DisplaySearch, shipments will grow from 81.6 million units in 2011 to 424.9 million units by 2017. And for next year, the forecast for shipments increased from 168.9 million to 184.2 million.
The report attributes the anticipated growth to tablets tapping new operating systems and display technologies. The quarterly tablet report covers the changing landscape of screen sizes, features and operating systems.]
"As the market matures and competitors become better attuned to consumer preferences and find opportunities to break new ground, we expect the landscape to change dramatically, giving consumers more choices, which will drive demand for more devices," said Richard Shim, NPD DisplaySearch senior analyst.
The report points to the success of Amazon's Kindle Fire, which runs on a version of Google's Android, as a example of the diversification afoot.
Tablets will experience such demand that, by 2016, the number of tablets shipped will surpass the number of notebook PCs, NPD said.
As other device categories cool a bit, NPD also expects an infusion of supply-chain investments to lead to more opportunities for new technologies to challenge the current leaders.
Although Apple has dominated the tablet space with its operating system and three generations of iPads, the study said, that situation is poised to shift.
The NPD report, like a recent report from Forrester Research, predicts slow but notable growth potential for Microsoft's Windows RT -- the upcoming mobile operating system for ARM-based tablets -- as the Android OS increases its presence and Apple's iOS loses market share over the next five years.
Many display manufacturers are shifting production of tablet panels to larger plants, the report said, boosting capacity for tablet displays and possibly cutting costs.
Although the report didn't get into predictions about screen size, it did say that more tablets are expected to feature AMOLED screens, increasing from 3% this year to 30% in 2017.
It is another in a series of reports predicting explosive growth in this mobile computing segment, forecasting, in essence, the rise of the tablet amid the incremental demise of the PC.
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