IHS iSuppli expects Apple to dominate the market for smaller tablets like it has done with the larger device size.
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Apple's expected iPad Mini could help the 7-inch tablet market double in both 2012 and 2013, IHS iSuppli estimates.
The tech research firm said global sales of tablets with displays in the 7-inch range should soar by 100 percent this year to 34 million units, up from 17 million in 2011. Sales will nearly double again in 2013, rising 96 percent to 67 million, the firm said.
Apple had long eschewed the smaller tablet market in favor of its traditional 9.7-inch iPad. That has allowed other companies, like Amazon and Samsung, to differentiate themselves from Apple with their smaller devices. But Apple is expected to unveil a smaller iPad today, likely ending the 7-inch tablet dominance by its Android rivals.
Rhoda Alexander, director of tablet and monitor research for IHS, had this to say:
"Just as Apple has dominated the market for 9.7-inch tablets with its iPad, iPad 2 and new iPad models, the company is poised to rule the market for 7.x-inch products, driving rapid growth of the segment in 2012 and 2013. The battle in the 7-inch space is highly spirited, with most of the other leading vendors already offering price-competitive products in this size range. IHS predicts Apple will successfully position the smaller iPad as a device that will be attractive and easy to adopt for both new and returning customers. This will spur rapid sales growth and provide tough competition for other companies contending in this size range."
The firm expects tablets in the 7-inch size range to account for 28 percent of all tablets this year, up from 24 percent last year. That should rise to 33 percent next year, IHS said. And the firm said its 2013 forecast is likely conservative. It believes the limiting factor for shipments of the iPad Mini will be production challenges and supply issues, not demand.
If Apple can meet demand, particularly in Asia, "then 2013 sales could be off the charts," Alexander said.