Research firm IDC's latest quarterly tablet tracking report estimates tablet shipments will be upwards of 350 million units by the end of 2017.
This year alone, the worldwide tablet market is expected to rise significantly, upping the firm's estimates from 172.4 million to 190.9 million, an increase of 11 percent.
In prepared remarks, IDC tablet tracker research analyst Jitesh Ubrani said: "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."
"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 are expected to see an expansion in share this year following rocketing success in 2012. The Google-owned platform is expected to reach a peak of 48.8 percent market share this year, and will see a slight decrease over the next four years by 2017. But the research firm says that Android's gain comes at iOS' expense, which will slip from 51 percent of the 2012 market to 46 percent this year.
On the other hand, both Android and iOS-based tablets will relinquish some market share to Windows-based tablets — including Windows 7 and Windows 8 — with an expected increase from its 1 percent share in 2012 to 7.4 percent in 2017. However, bad news for Windows RT fans as IDC believes its growth will remain below 3 percent during the four-year period.
IDC tablets research director Tom Mainelli explained: "Microsoft's decision to push two different tablet operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, has yielded poor results in the market so far."
He noted that consumers are failing to buy into Windows RT's value proposition. "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."