Forrester issued a new report to its clients on Monday in which it increased its consumer tablet sales forecasts. The research firm now expects that 112.5 million U.S. adults, or 34.3 percent of the population, will own a tablet by 2016. Another 105.7 million tablet owners, or 30.4 percent of adults, are expected in Europe.
Tablet sales in the U.S. alone are expected to reach 37.9 million in 2012, growing to 60.3 million in calendar 2016.
Even as competitors have attempted to combat the iPad, Apple has maintained market dominance with an estimated 73 percent of sales in the U.S. The new figures come as Apple is prepared to unveil its next iPad in a highly anticipated media event on Wednesday.
Forrester believes the iPad's chief competitor at the moment is the Amazon Kindle Fire, which analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said is believed to have reached sales of 5.5 million in its first quarter on the market.
Whether or not Apple will, Epps believes the company should produce a smaller, cheaper iPad to capture market share from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which have addressed the lower end of the market with their touchscreen tablets. While Forrester's surveys have found that 62 percent of tablet shoppers prefer a 10-inch screen, 26 percent said they would like a smaller screen, and 20 percent are undecided.
Word of a so-called "iPad mini" has picked up in recent weeks, thanks to a number of reports that have claimed Apple is buying touchscreens sized between 7 and 8 inches. But the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously panned 7-inch tablets back in 2010, calling them too small to be usable.
As for Android-based tablets beyond the Kindle Fire or Barnes & Noble Nook, which run customized versions of Google's mobile operating system, Epps believes vendors should abandon android and jump ship to Windows. She believes that those who expect Android to find success in the tablet market as it has done with smartphones are wrong.
"Conscious adoption of Android phones is much lower than actual Android adoption due to inconsistent branding from OEMs and carriers," she wrote. "Android implementation on tablets suffers from the same fragmented branding: T-Mobile advertises its own Android tablet 'with Google,' while OEMs boast of 'Ice Cream Sandwich' and other marketing terms that don't resonate with mainstream consumers."
While Android tablets have grown thanks largely to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Epps noted that Forrester's research has found most consumers say they would rather buy a Windows tablet than a one running Google Android.
"We don't think it's a matter of time before HTC, Lenovo, or Samsung tablets start to sell — unless they're running Windows," she said. "Android OEMs would do best to dial down their investment in Android and shift investment to Windows to leverage Microsoft's still-strong consumer brand, enterprise acceptance, and global scale."
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