Tablet manufacturers will sell almost 20 million devices worldwide during 2010, and those sales will increase by 181 percent next year, according to analysts at Gartner.
Driven by Apple's iPad, the media tablet market will see sales of 19.5 million this year, 54.8 million in 2011 and more than 208 million in 2014, the analyst firm said on Friday. It predicted that the rise of tablets — running operating systems such as iOS, Android, WebOS and Meego — will see a drop in sales of rival devices, such as netbooks and e-readers.
"The all-in-one nature of media tablets will result in the cannibalisation of other consumer electronics devices such as e-readers, gaming devices and media players," Gartner research vice president Carolina Milanesi said in a statement. "Mini notebooks will suffer from the strongest cannibalisation threat as media tablet average selling prices drop below $300 [£187] over the next two years."
Gartner said there will only be limited cannibalisation of low-end smartphones and consumer notebooks. "The majority of the impact will be from 7-inch media tablets on high-end smartphones, as it will be hard for a user to justify owning both when the differentiation in usage model is very limited," Gartner said in the statement. It added that people who own a 7-inch tablet might then opt for a lower-priced smartphone with a smaller form factor when they come to upgrade their mobile phone.
The analyst firm also predicted that tablets with cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity will account for 55 percent of tablet sales in 2010, and 80 percent in 2014.
Gartner did not include any figures for tablet sales before 2010, as its tablet statistics only refer to devices in a slate format that use a lightweight, mobile-style operating system — in effect, the analyst house sees the 'media tablet' as beginning with the iPad.
"In the enterprise space, for the immediate future, the main use of media tablets is as a notebook companion or as a secondary device to take on the road or use for fast access to email, calendaring, interrogating web applications and information sources, and showing PowerPoint presentations," the company added.
The vast majority of tablets sold now use ARM architecture, which was mostly developed for phones and is therefore very power efficient. However, x86-architecture companies such as Intel and AMD are also keen to enter the tablet market.
On Tuesday, Intel chief Paul Otellini said his company — whose chips are only found in tablets from Cisco and AT&T — is taking a "longer view" of the tablet market. He said tablets were "exciting", but suggested they would become a parallel market to that for PCs, rather than cannibalising PC sales to a significant degree.
AMD chief Dirk Meyer also briefly addressed the tablet issue in a results-related conference call on Thursday, saying that in the long term "the tablet form factor is accretive to the market opportunity for companies like AMD".
"There's no question that the tablet phenomenon has been a source of volatility relative to any of our customers' ability to predict the market," Meyer added.