Tablets accounted for quarter of mobile PC shipments in 2011 (report)

Tablet shipments grew big time in 2011, accounting for roughly 25 percent of all mobile PC shipments worldwide.

The tablet computing category is finally coming into its own and proving that there is consumer and enterprise demand as 2011 proved to be a major turning point for these products.

Tablets accounted for approximately 25.5 percent, or 72.7 million units, of all mobile PC shipments worldwide in 2011, according new research from NPD DisplaySearch.

Thanks to this success for one mobile PC type, DisplaySearch has had to reassess some of its other predictions, including downgrading notebook PC shipments from 188 million to 187.5 million units shipped.

In a few years, the divide between tablet and laptop shipments could close significantly. DisplaySearch predicts that by 2017, laptop shipments are expected to reach 432 million units, while tablets will follow close behind at 383.3 million units shipped.

Ultrabooks are cited as the only form factor that might prove to be challenging in the next few years, as some models are supposed to cross into both categories -- or combine them, depending how you want to look at it. Nevertheless, foresight and predictions about that Intel-backed category will be easier to make after 2012 when between 40 to 60 Ultrabook models are expected to be rolled out, and we can see how successful those turn out to be.

Of course, remember that the keyword here is that these units were "shipped" -- not necessarily sold. We know that there are plenty of tablet models that didn't exactly do very well this year (see: BlackBerry PlayBook).

But there are some others that made up the difference, such as the iPad 2, Kindle Fire, and one could argue even the HP TouchPad thanks to a signficant price drop, which taught us all a lesson about what people are willing to pay for tablets in reality.

[Graph via NPD DisplaySearch]