Tablet-style computers, which include Apple's iPad, will outsell netbooks in two years in the United States, a research firm says.
Unit sales of personal computers as a whole will increase by 52% over the next five years, Forrester Research said in a report entitled "The US Consumer PC Market in 2015." Desktops will be the only PC category in which fewer units will be sold in five years than today.
The report by analyst Sarah Rotman Epps found that tablet-style computers would outsell netbooks in 2012. Netbooks, which are inexpensive mini-laptops designed for email, Web browsing and light content creation, have been the fastest growing PC category since they first hit the market in 2007. Sales of netbooks last year helped computer makers maintain sales volumes last year during the economic recession, but the lower prices also lessened profits
Analysts say that the growing number of applications being written for the new type of tablets, also called slates, will expand their usefulness and drive future sales. Apple is leading the charge in third-party app development for the iPad through its App Store, and competitors are expected to adopt the same model in selling tablets running Google's Android operating system.
By 2015, slates will outsell netbooks and desktops, according to Forrester. However, the latter are not going away anytime soon. Gaming and 3D content, such as movies and games, are expected to keep desktops viable for some time.
By 2015, tablets will account for 23% of all PCs sold to consumers, Forrester said in releasing its report Thursday. Laptops will constitute the largest share of the PC market.
Forrester is not the first research firm to predict that netbook sales would give way to tablet sales. DisplaySearch reported Tuesday that in its quarterly report on laptop sales that tablet-style PCs could start grabbing share from netbooks in the second half of this year.