Tablets will outship notebooks by 2016, research firm says

Research firm NPD DisplaySearch thinks tablet shipments will exceed laptop shipments in the next few years.

Research firm NPD DisplaySearch expects tablet shipments to exceed laptop shipments by 2016, likely due to consumer desire for more portability.

"Consumer preference for mobile computing devices is shifting from notebook to tablet PCs," NPD DisplaySearch senior analyst Richard Shim said in a press release on Tuesday.

The firm expects notebook sales to increase from 208 million units this year to 393 million units by 2017. Tablet shipments, however, will reportedly grow much faster, increasing fourfold from 121 million units this year to 416 million units in 2017.

While NPD DisplaySearch doesn't mention it by name, Microsoft's newly-announced Surface tablet and other Windows 8 tablets may spur this fast growth. Rather than running an operating system designed for mobile devices, the Surface and other Windows 8 tablets will run a full version of Windows 8. This means that a host of laptop applications not currently available to tablet users will be available on Windows 8 tablets. Combine this availability with tablet cases that have integrated physical keyboards, and users will no longer need to carry around bulky laptops.

Portability isn't the only reason tablets are, and will be, so successful. NPD DisplaySearch points out that tablet battery life is much improved over laptop battery life, due to less focus on computing power within the device. While there are some people who need a significant amount of computing power for mobile computing tasks, most users find tablets sufficient for their needs.

Those who need more raw power from tablets may not have to wait long. NPD DisplaySearch expects future enhancements to tablets will include multi-core processors, better operating systems, an ever-increasing number of apps, and higher-resolution displays.

So here's the question for PCWorld readers: Do you see yourself replacing your laptop with a tablet in the not-too-distant future? Will you be one of the many users NPD DisplaySearch expects to make the leap by 2016?

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Ed Oswald

PC World (US online)

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