Tablets are hot-- so hot that IDC just bumped up its global market forecast for the tablet market for 2012 and beyond.
The proliferation of Android tablets of various sizes, the trend toward lower prices and the launch of the Apple iPad mini in November are all key reasons for the adjustment, IDC said.
The new projections lower the projected market share of Apple iOS-based tablets from 56.3% in 2011 to 53.8% in 2012. IDC now expects that the market share of Android tablets will jump from 39.8% in 2011 to 42.7% in 2012.
For all of 2012, IDC now expects that 122.3 million tablets running all operating systems will be shipped to retailers, up from the 117.1 million devices projected earlier.
IDC is now projecting that 172.4 million tablets will ship in 2013, up from the 165.9 million forecast previously. Shipments in 2016 are now expected to be 282.7, up from 261.4 projected earlier, IDC said.
"Tablets continue to captivate consumers, and as the market shift toward smaller, more mobile screens sizes and lower price points, we expect demand to accelerate in the fourth quarter and beyond," said IDC analyst Tom Mainelli.
Android tablets are gaining traction because of high quality products from Google, Amazon, Samsung and others, Maineilli said. He also cited low-end tablet price tags of $200 or less.
IDC analyst Ryan Reith said that the "breadth and depth" of sizes and prices of available Android tablets has helped the OS advance, just as the long list of Android smartphones helped them lead the market.
Reith noted that Samsung, Lenovo and Asus are all launching Android tablets with low price points made possible by the Android platform's low manufacturing costs.
The Google Nexus 7 tablet, made by Asus, is priced at $199. The Samsung-manufactured Galaxy Tab is priced from $199 to $349, depending on display size. Lenovo's IdeaPad line is priced at about $300 for a 9-in display, Reith noted.
Reith said that IDC's previous forecast had Apple tablets gaining a percentage point in share from 2011 to 2012, but iOS was downgraded because of the solid third quarter growth of Android amid an iOS decline.
"That made us shift thinking a bit," Reith said in an email to Computerworld. "We still expect Apple to have a record fourth quarter this year, but Android will grow as well. It's going to be a strong holiday season for tablets."
IDC also has Windows-based tablets (both Windows RT and Windows 8) grabbing some market share from both Android and iOS. The Windows share of the market is expected to grow from 2.9% in 2012 to 10.3% in 2016.
IDC expects that tablets will cannibalize the e-reader market. The research firm noted that while front-lit e-readers have captured a subset of consumers, most buyers want multi-use tablets whose back-lit screens offer a "good enough reading experience."
Overall, e-reader shipments are projected to total 19.9 million in 2012, down from 27.7 million in 2011.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.