The tablet PC market is on the verge of an explosion and, because of their "all-in-one" nature, other electronic devices - think e-readers, handheld gaming devices and portable media players - could feel the pinch the hardest. Mini-notebooks could take the hardest hit.
Those are the red-flag warnings issued by Carolina Milanesi, research VP at Gartner, which released a global forecast report for tablet PCs today. The big number: tablets will grow 181 percent in 2011.
Driven by sales of the iPad, tablet sales are expected to reach 19.5 million by the end of this year and shoot up to 54.8 million in 2011. By 2014, that number will soar past 208 million.
But the report does more than look at growth numbers. It also examines adoption patterns on both the business and consumer fronts.
Related: Can we drop the charade that Apple's iPad isn't hurting PC sales?
Thanks in part to the easy-to-use touch-screen interface and simple set-up, tablets are poised to become a popular purchase for families, attractive to both power users and technophobes. With costs decreasing, it's not unlikely that the tablet will be another device that can be found across the house, from living room to kitchen to garage.
On the business side, the near-term outlook sees the tablet as a companion to the notebook, a device for quick access to email, calendar, apps and presentations. However, Gartner doesn't see them as replacements to the notebook and something that companies will buy for their employees. From the report:
The majority of knowledge workers cannot use media tablets to replace their notebooks. Since these workers usually also have smartphones, media tablets become their third device. Most organizations will not buy that third device. Because of the convenience factor for travel and an "instant on" for quick look-up functions, many users are paying for the media tablets with their own money to use both for work and pleasure.
Finally, the report notes that North America will account for 61 percent of sales this year but that growth in other markets will drop North America's share to 43 percent by 2014. Devices that are combination cellular/WiFi will account for 55 percent of sales this year but, by 2014, that number will reach 80 percent.