IDC Ups Tablet Forecast, Sees Windows Gaining on iPad, Android

IDC revised its tablet forecast through 2016 on Wednesday, predicting 2012 tablet shipments of 122.3 million units, up from a previous estimate of 117.1 million, growing to 282.7 million in 2016, up from 261.4 million. The firm sees devices running Microsoft's Windows for tablet OS gaining share at the expense of both Apple's iPad and the Android platform, too.

The research firm's estimates for 2013 increased from 165.9 million to 172.4 million.

The Tablet Pie

The Tablet Pie

"Android tablets are gaining traction in the market thanks to solid products from Google, Amazon, Samsung, and others," Tom Mainelli, IDC's research director for Tablets, said in a statement. "And Apple's November iPad mini launch, along with its surprise refresh of the full-sized iPad, positions the company well for a strong holiday season."

For 2012, IDC believes Apple will own 53.8 percent of the market, down from 56.3 percent. Android's share is expected to grow from 39.8 percent in 2011 to 42.7 percent in 2012, leaving 2.9 percent for Windows and some residue on the pie knife for other would-be tablet platforms.

While 2012 is seeing growth for Android tablets, that growth has slowed dramatically from 2011, when the platform's share exploded from less than 20 percent to almost 40. This could be because once people buy Android tablets they don't actually do anything with them, but that wasn't addressed by IDC.

Instead, the firm sees it's long standing prediction that cheap Android OEMs would do to the iPad what Android OEMs did to the iPhone coming (sort of) to fruition. Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobile Device Trackers, said in a statement, that:

The breadth and depth of Android has taken full effect on the tablet market as it has for the smartphone space. Android tablet shipments will certainly act as the catalyst for growth in the low-cost segment in emerging markets given the platform's low barrier to entry on manufacturing. At the same time, top-tier companies like Samsung, Lenovo, and ASUS are all launching Android tablets with comparable specs, but offered at much lower price points.

Keep in mind that IDC also projected as recently as March of 2011 that Windows Phone would overtake iPhone in the smartphone market. That same month, IDC projected that Android will overtake iPad, also in 2015. Wednesday's projections back off from that like it was a piece of stinky cheese that no one wants get to close to, so keep a big bag of salt on hand for this sort of thing.

A look at the chart below shows that Apple hangs on a lead that is much closer to iPod's share of the media player market than iPhone's share in the smartphone market. By 2016, the firm is predicting that Apple will have maintained 49.7 percent of the market, a 4.1 percentage point decline from 2012 after four years of heavy competition.

At the same time, IDC is projecting Android's share will have declined to 39.7 percent, while Microsoft's Windows will have climbed to 10.3 percent.