Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
Smaller tablets are taking a bigger piece of the pie.
Worldwide tablet shipments are expected to increase to 190.9 million units this year -- up from a previous estimate of 172.4 million -- thanks to a predicted surge in smaller, lower-priced tablets, according to a report Tuesday by market research firm International Data Corp.
"One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below 8 inches in screen size. And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond," said Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst for IDC's Tablet Tracker. "Vendors are moving quickly to compete in this space as consumers realize that these small devices are often more ideal than larger tablets for their daily consumption habits."
Android-based tablets expanded their share of the market significantly in 2012, and IDC said it expects that trend to continue in 2013.
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Android's share of the market is forecast to reach a peak of 48.8% in 2013, compared with 41.5% in IDC's previous forecast. Android's gains come at the expense of Apple's iOS, which is expected to slip from 51% of the market in 2012 to 46% in 2013.
Longer-term, both iOS and Android will eventually relinquish some market share to Windows-based tablets, with Windows 8 predicted to grow from 1% of the market in 2012 to 7.4% in 2017, the firm said.
"Microsoft's decision to push two different tablet operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, has yielded poor results in the market so far," said Tom Mainelli, research director of tablets. "Consumers aren't buying Windows RT's value proposition, and long term we think Microsoft and its partners would be better served by focusing their attention on improving Windows 8. Such a focus could drive better share growth in the tablet category down the road."
IDC estimated that tablet shipments would grow to more than 350 million units by the end of 2017.
Although tablets are expected to continue their rise, the outlook for e-readers is less promising.
The growth of low-cost tablets is "clearly damaging the prospects of the single-use e-reader," the firm said. IDC reduced its forecast for the category by an average of 14% between 2013 and 2016.
IDC said e-reader shipments peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units. After declining to 18.2 million units in 2012, the category is expected to grow only modestly in 2013 and 2014, before it begins a gradual and permanent decline beginning in 2015, it said.
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