updated 11:45 am EST, Wed January 4, 2012
NPD estimate calls for 383m tablets in 2017
Tablets will grow rapidly enough over the next five years to be nearly as important as notebooks, the NPD Group's DisplaySearch wing said in an unusually long-term estimate. Determining that tablets will have grown 256 percent this year where notebooks would be up just 12 percent, it predicted a quick enough pace that there would be 383.3 million tablets shipped in 2017. While notebooks would be up to 432 million in this view, they would no longer have the clear advantage.
Netbooks would be permanently stalled and likely keep shrinking, if slowly, for the rest of their lifetime.
Full-size notebooks would survive primarily based on ultrabooks, DisplaySearch said. It estimated about 175 million of them shipping in 2017 as prices eventually dropped down low enough to overcome hurdles. Fast startup and long battery life would tip the balance.
Tablets, meanwhile, would keep growing because of rapid development on every level. Along with faster processors and more desktop-like features, they would also get very high resolution displays that could make up a quarter of shipments in 2012 alone. The number will most likely be higher as the iPad is still poised to dominate tablets in 2012 while the Galaxy Tab 11.6 and others also push the limits of display technology.
As with most such predictions, any number of wildcards could affect long-term forecasts. Many had predicted that netbooks would keep growing and hadn't foreseen the iPad, which stopped netbook growth almost immediately and eventually began cutting into regular notebooks. Disillusionment with tablets or a lack of success for Windows ultrabooks could heavily skew the results.