In our new reportMichael O'Grady and I outline our latest update of the tablet forecast. While in previous years we focused on the North American consumer market, this year’s report expands the analysis to include our viewpoint on the global market for both consumers and businesses

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Fundamentally, as we have been writing about for some time, we believe tablet sales and penetration will continue to grow rapidly. In developed markets, they will streak past “mass market” status to become what we term “mainstay” devices – a third form factor carried by most online consumers. Our forecast indicates that tablets have hit hyper-growth. By 2017, we find that:

  • In North America (US/Canada), 60% of online consumers will own a tablet by 2017, making it a majority device. In Europe, 42% of online consumers will own one. While penetration rates won’t reach even 25% in aggregate in the developing world by that date, tablets will reach majority status in leading Asian markets like Singapore and South Korea.
  • Total worldwide sales will reach 381 million units. A majority of these will be purchased by consumers, but enterprise purchases will make up 18% — having risen every year as a percentage of sales since the inception of the market.
  • The global installed base of tablets will reach 905 million. Tablets will be used by over one in eight people on earth, including 29% of online consumers globally.

Tablets, we find, will play an increasingly critical role at work. Both company-issued and bring-your-own (BYO) tablets will become pervasive in workplaces in developed countries or dynamic regions of developing countries (for example, urban China). In the next few years:

  • Employees will be willing to pay some or all of the cost. In addition company-issued and BYO, a third model is emerging in which workers themselves are willing to foot partof the cost of a tablet to get the specific device of their choice.
  • Vertical scenarios will emerge. In healthcare, for instance, the hyper-portability of tablets empowers doctors and nurses to use them for patient-facing scenarios (like showing x-ray results) as well as for treatment-related scenarios (inputting and tracking symptoms and vitals).
  • Specific classes of workers will be issued tablets. Organizations show a clear hierarchy of roles – that is, classes of workers to whom they are willing to give company-issued tablets. Tablets will move beyond executives and traveling salespeople to other roles in coming years.

Finally, we discuss the next wave of tablet computing. Collaboration technologies will drive the next wave of adoption, whether via:

  • Multi-user tablet-style devices. Microsoft’s PixelSense and Lenovo’s IdeaCenter Horizon devices pave the way for multi-user collaborative devices that can be used in commercial and consumer settings.
  • Multiple users employing multiple tablets, linked by collaboration apps. Expect Labs’ MindMeld app shows the power of multi-user collaboration joined by an intelligent personal assistant.

These and other collaborative computing scenarios will drive the dynamism of the tablet market in future years.

We invite Forrester clients to please read the report in its entirety.