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An onslaught of tablet PC shipments set for this year

by David Needle

May 6 2013

Touch computing is unstoppable. That is one reasonable takeaway from a new report on tablet PC shipments and the adoption of touchscreen computing.

Tablet PC shipments are set to grow 67% from a year ago, to 256.5 million in 2013, and reach 579.4 million by 2017, according to a new report by NPD DisplaySearch.

A lot of that growth will come at the expense of notebook PCs with those shipments expected to decline 10% over the next four years, from 203.3 million in 2013 to 183.3 million in 2017.

But NPD notes there will be pockets of growth in notebook PCs. For example, shipments of notebooks with touch capabilities are expected to grow 48% Y/Y in 2014. (Shipments refers to units shipped to distributors, not sell through to users).

NPD says new operating systems such as Windows 8 are unlikely to be a major driver of touch adoption. Instead, the uptick of touch in notebook PCs will be driven by a reduction in cost and new form factors, such as hybrids, sliders, and convertibles.

“Thus far, Windows 8 has had a limited impact on driving touch adoption in notebook PCs, due to a lack of applications needing touch and the high cost of touch on notebook PCs,” said NPD senior analyst Richard Shim. “Form factors aimed at differentiation from standard clamshell notebooks will help to drive consumer adoption of touch-enabled notebook PCs, starting in the second half of 2013.”

In the notebook category, touch will be used mainly in ultra-slim PCs, which includes Intel-specified Ultrabooks, the MacBook Air, and other slim form factor notebooks. Ultra-slims, which are at the premium end of the notebook market, are forecast to account for two-thirds of touch-enabled notebooks in 2013.

By 2017, they will be 80%. Intel’s recent mandate that third-generation Ultrabooks (using the company’s next generation Haswell processors) must include touch will also help adoption.

As for the overall worldwide growth of tablet PCs, NPD notes that so-called white box tablets (non-brand name, locally made units) are shipping in significant volumes, particularly in China.

NPD says white box tablet PCs accounted for one-third of tablet PC shipments in 2012 and will maintain that level for the next several years.

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