On the shipment front, IDC expects tablet to reach 221.3 million units in 2013 (down slightly from a previous forecast of 227.4 million, but still 53.5% above 2012 levels).
Shipment growth is forecast to slow to 22.2% year over year in 2014 to a total of 270.5 million units. By 2017, annual market growth will slow to single-digit percentages and shipments will peak at 386.3 million units, down from the previous forecast of 407 million units.
(Note that “shipments” are how many units IDC expects manufacturers to ship to retailers, not how many are sold, which is typically a lower number).
Return of the bigger tablet?
While smaller, less expensive 7- to 8-inch tablets have been selling well, IDC thinks several factors could lead to renewed interest in fuller-sized tablets.
For one, the thinner, lightweight iPad Air sporting the traditional 9.7-inch size screen has been a hot seller and could have a halo effect of making larger sized tablets more appealing.
The other factor is the emergence of bigger smartphones, so-called phablets, with large touch screens. The difference between a phablet with a 6-inch screen and a 7-inch tablet isn’t likely to be enough for consumers to buy both.
"In some markets consumers are already making the choice to buy a large smartphone rather than buying a small tablet, and as a result we've lowered our long-term forecast," said Tom Mainelli, IDC’s Research Director for tablets.
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A boon for Windows 8 tablets?
IDC thinks a trend towards larger tablets could be a positive development for Windows tablets, which generally benefit from a larger screen area. Still, the research firm doesn’t expect Windows-based tablets to steal share from tablets running iOS and Android for another few years.
“For months, Microsoft and Intel have been promising more affordable Windows tablets and 2-in-1 devices," said IDC Research Analyst Jitesh Ubrani.
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But, he added, “We're already halfway through the holiday quarter, and though there have been some relatively high-profile launches from the likes of Dell, HP, and Lenovo, we've yet to see widespread availability of these devices, making it difficult for Windows to gain share during this crucial period.”
To compare these projections with other research firms' figures, see TabTimes' continuously updated The State of the Tablet Market report.