Android tablets to overtake iPad market share this year, IDC forecasts

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Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad will lose its stranglehold on the worldwide tablet market this year, overcome by a wave of smaller, lower-priced devices powered by Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, research firm IDC forecasts.

Manufacturers are expected to ship 190.9 million tablets in 2013, up from IDC's previous estimate of 172.4 million units. Android-based tablets are on pace to represent 48.8 percent of shipments this year, up from 41.5 percent in the firm's previous forecast, while the iPad is expected to slip from 51 percent of the market in 2012 to 46 percent.

Source: IDC Worldwide Tablet Market Forecast by OS, Unit Shipments, 4Q 2012

"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."

IDC projects that tablet shipments will increase an average of 11 percent annually between 2013 and 2016, eclipsing 350 million in 2017: Android is expected to control 46 percent of the tablet by the end of the forecast period, remaining ahead of iPad at 43.5 percent. Both platforms will relinquish some market share to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), with Windows 8 tablets expected to grow from 2.8 percent of the market in 2013 to 7.4 percent in 2017, ahead of Windows RT, which will increase only slightly from 1.9 percent this year to 2.7 percent in 2017.

"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, 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."

Growing consumer demand for tablets spells trouble for dedicated e-reader devices: IDC is reducing its forecast for the category by an average of 14 percent between 2013 and 2016. E-reader shipments peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units and declined to 18.2 million units the following year--IDC anticipates the category will experience modest growth in 2013 and 2014, but will begin a permanent decline in 2015.

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