Tablet PC sales grew by a whopping 256 per cent in 2011 to nearly 73 million units, outpacing notebook shipment growth to occupy a quarter of all mobile PC sales, according to the latest stats from market research firm NPD DisplaySearch.
The firm's Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report released on Wednesday, revealed that 72.7m tablets were shipped in 2011, to give the category a 25.5 per cent share of all mobile PC shipments.
Overall mobile PC sales figures stood at 285.4 million units for 2011, which is a year-on-year increase of 31 per cent.
However, while NPD DisplaySearch lowered its notebook PC shipment forecast for 2011 from 188m to 187.5m units, they are likely to bounce back this year to provide stronger competition for tablets.
"In the short term, tablet PCs will be the growth accelerant in the overall mobile PC market, as macroeconomic factors and hard drive motor supply issues impact the market for notebook PCs," said Richard Shim, senior analyst at NPD DisplaySearch.
"In the longer term, notebook PC shipments will bounce back as ASPs continue to decline, Windows 8 launches, and new form factors, such as ultrabooks, continue to emerge."
The analyst noted that ultrabooks would not make a significant impact on the market for the next couple of years, however, due to their high price tag and possibly supply limitations affecting the production of ultra-thin displays.
By 2017, notebook PC shipments are forecast to reach 432 million units, and tablet PC shipments are projected to reach 383.3 million units, driven by more mature operating systems, a wider selection of apps, increasingly powerful multi-core processors and higher resolution displays, the analyst said.
The past 12 months have certainly seen a maturation in a tablet market still dominated by Apple's iPad 2, with rival Android devices led by Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 making up some ground while those late to the game like HP and RIM struggled to make an impact.
Looking ahead, 2012 is likely to see more legal fisticuffs between Samsung and Apple, a big buzz around the forthcoming tablet-friendly Windows 8 OS and, most probably, the long-awaited iPad 3.
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