iPad Mini refresh and new form factors will kick the small tablet movement into high gear

by David Needle

June 19 2013

Smaller tablets like these 7-inch Android models are grabbing a bigger share of the overall tablet market.
Smaller tablets like these 7-inch Android models are grabbing a bigger share of the overall tablet market.

Credit the first Amazon Kindle Fire for igniting the movement to smaller tablets. Released in the fall of 2011, the 7-inch Kindle Fire has since seen plenty of big name competitors including the 7-inch Nexus 7 from Google and, in the not-quite-as-small category, Apple’s iPad Mini sporting an 7.9-inch display.

But the smaller tablet movement is just getting started. 

DisplaySearch expects tablets with screen sizes smaller than 9 inches to account for two-thirds (66%) of all tablet shipments for the year. 

But the percentage should actually be bigger for the second half of 2013 when a series of new 8-inch tablets (including new Windows 8 models) are expected to debut as well as a new version of the iPad Mini this fall. 

Only last year, the tablet PC market was dominated by 9 inch and larger tablet PCs (Iike the iPad), which accounted for over 60% of total tablet PCs shipped in 2012.

Even within this group of new smaller size tablets, DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim says there will be distinct market demand. 

“The two leading screen sizes in the small size (<9 inch) tablet PC category are 7 inch and 7.9 inch with 35% and 15% share in Q1’13 respectively,” Shin said in a blog post. 

“While tablet PCs with 7 inch displays appear to be heading for the low end of the market (less than $200), Apple’s iPad mini with its 7.9-inch display has captured a significant share of the market, despite its starting price of $329. Brands are hoping to expand this ‘middle class,’ gaining some share and slightly better margins than 7-inch tablet PCs.” 

8 is enough

That expansion is focused on a new generation of 8-inch tablets. Shin says his supply chain research points to production of Android-based tablet PCs with 8-inch, 1280 x 800 displays in Q3’13. Expect big name vendors including Acer, ASUS, Dell and Lenovo to join the 8-inch tablet party.

By the end of 2012, DisplaySearch expects 8-inch tablets to have grabbed between 5- and 10% of the total tablet PC market. 

Meanwhile, the rise of tablets is coming partly at the expense of notebook PCs. DisplaySearch expects notebook PC shipments to decline 5% year-to-year, from 214 million units in 2012 to 203 million units in 2013. 

By contrast, tablet PC shipments are expected to increase 67% Y/Y from 153.6 million units in 2012 to 256.5 million units in 2013.

“As notebook PC shipments continue to weaken while tablet PC shipments strengthen, brands are re-focusing their product strategies in response to a shift in consumer preference for tablet PCs,” said Shim.

David Needle is Editor of TabTimes and based in Silicon Valley.
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