Oh, analysts. Always making predictions! In this case, however, they may be right this time, though. Gartner is predicting that by 2014 we’ll be seeing tablet sales in the hundreds of millions. And why not?
First, it must be said that all this years-off speculation should be taken with a grain of salt, since over three years the term “tablet” may evolve somewhat. For instance, we now think of tablets as having light or mobile operating systems like iOS and Android, but in a couple years there will be tablet-specific OSes that will make our current tablets look primitive in comparison.
Anyway, the predictions they have don’t seem so far off the mark. Early adopters and iPad sales will bring this year’s totals to just under 20 million, which seems about right. Next year that number will rise to 55 million, which if anything I think might be an underestimate. This is a worldwide market and I think it will grow a lot — at the cost of some laptop and netbook sales, though right now tablets are far from a replacement for those. Next year will be different.
After that, Gartner sees the sales roughly doubling in 2012 to 100 million, at which point personally I think it may stall a bit. The functionality of a tablet is more basic than that of a laptop, and so demands on refreshing and replacing hardware aren’t as great. But hey, what do I know?
The numbers just keep increasing, obviously, and past 2012 I think it’s unwise to state much other than “more than 100 million, less than 300 million.”