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What’s behind Forrester’s bullish forecast of 375 million tablet sales in 2016?

by David Needle

April 23 2012

Android will face stiff competition at the low end from Amazon's Kindle Fire (shown above) and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet.
Android will face stiff competition at the low end from Amazon's Kindle Fire (shown above) and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet.

A new report by Forrester Research shows tablet sales growing rapidly over the next four years and they will also play a more important role in how we use other computing devices.

Forrester says tablets are evolving to become our primary personal computing device that will act as a conductor for working with our smartphones, PCs, and other devices.

But while tablet sales boom (56 million in 2011, growing to 375 million in 2016), deployment and management issues will continue to be a hassle for IT departments, Forrester analyst Frank Gillett told TabTimes. Gillett is lead author of Forrester’s “Tablets Will Rule The Future Personal Computing Landscape” report. 

Forrester predicts a third of 375 million tablets sold in 2016 will be purchased by business, but workers will continue the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend of also using their own tablets in the workplace. “It’s going to be really messy for some time as people drag their own devices to work,” says Gillett as companies are faced with figuring out how to make the IT-approved and personally-owned devices all work together. 

Forrester says a majority of tablets will be retired within three years of purchase, helping spur new purchases. By 2016 it forecasts that there will be 760 million tablets in use globally. 

(Chart above: Forrester Research)

Near term, there’s nothing likely to upset Apple’s iPad juggernaut, which Forrester doesn't expect to face serious competition anytime soon. 

Windows 8 tablets will make a splash later this year when they debut, but Gillett doesn’t see significant adoption until 2014. 

“We think the sales of Windows 8 this will be very small and continue to be slow going next year,” said Gillett. “It’s going to take time for Metro and the new apps to get established. You’re talking about a new generation of touch-enabled apps  and it’s going to take a while for the ecosystem to rev up. Windows 8 tablets really kick into gear by the start of 2014.” 

On the Android front he expects Android tablets to “stall out” with Google pursuing a low end strategy where those devices will face stiff competition from Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. 

In a blog post Gillett outlined the reasons he thinks tablet will continue their rapid ascent even with Intel and partners pushing a new generation of Ultrabooks as an alternative. 

“They [tablets] have longer battery life and always on capabilities better than any PC – and will continue to be better at that than any ultrathin/book/Air laptop. That makes them very handy for carrying around and using frequently, casually, and intermittently even where there isn’t a flat surface or a chair on which to use a laptop,” said Gillett.

Frames, a new kind of PC, enhance tablets

Forrester also predicts a new form of PC it calls “frames” will emerge over the next few years. Frames are a type of stationary display that incorporate sensors, wireless docking, and processing power designed to enhance the power of tablets, smartphones, and PCs connected to them. 

The research firm predicts frames will become common in meeting rooms, hotels rooms, coffee shops, and conferences as well as homes. 

“Tablets plus frames will substitute for laptops in significant volume,” says Forrester. 

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