Global Tablet Sales Poised to Soar, Analysts Project

Analysts are feeling bullish about tablet computers, with two recent reports predicting that unit sales could jump tenfold in the next few years.

In a report released Monday, NPD Group's DisplaySearch projects that worldwide PC sales will triple to about 56 million computers this year -- and will grow to more than 500 million computers by 2014, a third of which will be tablet or slate computers. Meanwhile, late last week IHS iSuppli predicted that worldwide consumers will buy 242 million iPads and other tablets in 2015, up from about 20 million last year.

Apple dominated the market last year with its iPad, essentially creating the tablet market by boosting sales by a factor of 10 last year from less than 2 million tablets in 2009, according to iSuppli. But in the next few years, growth will be driven by other computer makers, such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Dell (DELL) and Research in Motion (RIMM), jumping into the market to compete with Apple.

"The first wave, which is hitting in 2010 and 2011, was created by the arrival of the iPad and the ensuing tsunami of demand for the device," Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research at IHS, said in a statement. "The second wave, arriving in 2011 and 2012, will be propelled by a deluge of iPad competitors, particularly Android-based models. The third wave, which will turn up in 2013, will consist of a flood of models based on the Windows operating system that will expand the reach of tablets into traditional computer markets."

DisplaySearch also expects that the market will grow large enough to support multiple screen sizes, including 7-inch-wide models and 10-inch-wide models.

In addition to attracting more computer makers, expectations of an explosion in tablet sales have caused media companies to take note. Last week, News Corp. (NWS) unveiled The Daily, the first newspaper designed specifically for tablet computers.

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