A predicted surge in sales of smaller, lower-cost tablets will bump up the number of shipments this year, according to a new report from IDC.
The research firm now expects global tablet shipments to rise to 190.9 million in 2012, up from its prior forecast of 172.4 million. IDC also sees an average rise in shipments of 11 percent from now through 2016, leading to more than 350 million tablets shipped by the end of 2017.
"One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below 8 inches in screen size," IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani said in a statement. "And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond. Vendors are moving quickly to compete in this space as consumers realize that these small devices are often more ideal than larger tablets for their daily consumption habits."
Android's tablet market share is likely to peak at 48.8 percent this year before dipping to 46 percent in another four years. But that will still keep Google's mobile OS tops in the tablet arena.
The share held by Apple's iOS is expected to dip from 51 percent last year to 46 percent this year, eventually falling to 43.5 percent in 2017.
Which OS will grab some of the market share lost by Android and iOS? That task will fall to Windows.
Windows 8 tablets could squeeze out 7.4 percent of the tablet market in 2017, up from 2.8 percent this year and just 1 percent last year, IDC predicts.
Windows RT tablets will see some growth, grabbing a share of 2.7 percent in 2017 from 1.9 percent this year.
But Windows tablets still face obstacles.
"Microsoft's decision to push two different tablet operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, has yielded poor results in the market so far," Tom Mainelli, IDC's research director for tablets, said in a statement. "Consumers aren't buying Windows RT's value proposition, and long term we think Microsoft and its partners would be better served by focusing their attention on improving Windows 8. Such a focus could drive better share growth in the tablet category down the road."