Apple’s iPad Mini will kick tablet shipments into overdrive: Report

by David Needle

September 17 2012

The expected debut of the iPad Mini next month is expected to expand the market for 7-inch tablets.
The expected debut of the iPad Mini next month is expected to expand the market for 7-inch tablets.

The latest research from IHS iSuppli forecast a 56% jump in annual shipments of tablets this year, with an an extra spark provided by Apple’s expected release of an iPad Mini next month.

A big change this year is the emergence of 7-inch tablets. IHS expects 7-inch models to  be the second largest segment of the market at 32%. While that’s not a huge percentage gain over last year’s 26%, unit shipments will almost double from 21 million last year to 41 million in 2012. 

“Media tablets increasingly are becoming the biggest growth driver in the market for the small and medium display market,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, director for Small & Medium Displays at IHS.

“While the 9-inch segment dominated by the iPad will account for the majority of tablet display shipments this year, the fastest-growing portion of the market will the 7.x-inch screens used in products like the Galaxy Tab from Samsung Electronics, the Kindle Fire from Amazon, the Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble, and other tablet products using the Google Android operating system.”

That list would also include Google’s Nexus 7 as well. While the iPad Mini is being lumped in with other 7-inch models, its display, expected to be 7.85 inches, really positions it more accurately as an 8-inch tablet. 

New display tech

IHS also notes the leading panel makers are also investing in new technology designed to improve tablet display. Specifically, IHS says LGD and Samsung Display are developing high-performance tablet panels with wide-viewing-angle technologies like in-plane switching (IPS) and fringe-field switching (FFS). 

Additional research is being done to help improve tablet panel resolution, power consumption and overall performance.

The 9-inch segment, led by Apple’s iPad, is set to ship approximately 74.3 million units, or 59% of all tablet shipments. IHS forecast the 9-inch tablet market will grow 35% from 55.2 million units in 2011.

The larger display tablets are considered more suitable for creation and business productivity, but the additional portability of 7-inch models appeals to many and is adequate for tasks like checking and responding to email. 

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