Media Tablet Sales Expected To Surge

A six-fold increase in shipments of iPads and other slate computers will be driven by apps and services developed for the devices.
Inside Apple's iPad: FCC Teardown Photos
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Inside Apple's iPad: FCC Teardown Photos
The emerging media tablet market, which got a big boost with the launch of Apple's iPad, will grow substantially over the next four years, driven mostly by the applications and services that are expected to be released for the devices, a research firm said Thursday.

The nascent market is expected to rise from 7.6 million units this year to more than 46 million units in 2014, IDC reported. The projected increase represents a compound annual growth rate of 57.4%.

Media tablets, also called slate computers, fall between smartphones and laptops. Demand for slate devices is rising strongly because of the number and variety of third-party applications for content and services that expand the number of uses for the devices.

"The availability of apps unique to media tablets and that differentiate the experience of using one compared with a PC or smartphone will be crucial for driving consumer demand," IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said in a statement. "As the category matures and more media tablet-optimized apps become available, IDC expects that media tablets will evolve beyond nice-to-have devices and become necessities for many consumers."

IDC defines the latest device category as having tablet-like designs with color displays of 7 inches to 12 inches. Current systems are based on ARM processors and run lightweight operating systems, such Apple's iPhone OS and Google's Android OS.

The technology in media tablets differentiates them from tablet PCs, which have been used by field workers to input data for years. Such computers are typically based on x86 processors and run full PC operating systems.

Also separating the device categories is the lack of a built-in hardware keyboard in media tablets, which use a stylus/pen or finger for navigation and data input, IDC said. Because media tablets are gaining a wide range of applications and Internet connectivity, they offer a much broader set of features than electronic readers, which are primarily single-function devices.

Today, media tablets are being marketed as entertainment devices for viewing video, playing games, and listening to music. However, as more productivity applications are released, the devices will become more useful to business users.