Unit sales of media tablets such as Apple’s iPad will grow massively to reach 46 million by 2014, according to IDC.

The market watcher predicted that the new form factor will eventually become a “necessity” for many consumers as the number and variety of compatible third-party apps for content and services explodes.

IDC forecast that global shipments will hit 7.6 million this year before growing to 46 million in 2014. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 57.4 per cent.

The media tablet is exemplified by the recently launched iPad, which some analysts believe will sell over seven million units alone this year.

IDC stressed that media tablets are different from tablets, which are based on x86 processors and run a full PC operating system. In contrast, media tablets are currently based on ARM processors, run lightweight operating systems and use a stylus or finger for navigation rather than including built-in hardware keyboards.

IDC said it saw the form factor slotting in nicely between smartphones and portable PCs.

Susan Kevorkian, IDC’s programme director of Digital Marketplace – Mobile Media & Entertainment, said: “The availability of apps unique to media tablets and that differentiate the experience of using one compared with a PC or smartphone will be crucial for driving consumer demand.

“As the category matures and more media tablet-optimized apps become available, IDC expects that media tablets will evolve beyond nice-to-have devices and become necessities for many consumers.”

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