Tablet display shipments jump, top laptops in October

Tablets are on a tear. Shipments of tablets are catching up to laptops a lot faster than anticipated only a few months ago.

The $199 Nexus 7 has been a catalyst in driving tablet shipments, says NPD DisplaySearch.

Only days after a report anticipating a surge in tablet shipments, it's official: Tablet display shipments topped laptops in October, said NPD DisplaySearch today.

"In a milestone for the global industry, in October tablet PC panel shipments exceeded those of notebook PC panels," NPD DisplaySearch said today in a research note.

Because display panel shipments are always the leading indicator for device shipments, "it can be seen that tablet PCs are threatening to overtake notebooks," DisplaySearch said.

So, is this a snapshot of the laptop in decline or just a fluke?

Here's how DisplaySearch explains it:

  • Inventory buildup in laptops: The notebook PC supply chain has some slow-moving inventory...and panel shipments declined by almost 4 million units from September to October.
  • Shift to Windows 8: Notebook PC panel buyers bought fewer displays as they prepared for new Windows 8 designs.
  • Tablet shipment surge: Tablet shipments soared to build inventory for the holidays.

"October panel shipments could be a special case," wrote DisplaySearch analyst David Hsieh. But he went on to say that tablets "have been the hottest" category for displays this year.

Monthly notebook PC and tablet PC panel shipments.
Monthly notebook PC and tablet PC panel shipments. NPD DisplaySearch

This follows a DisplaySearch forecast on Tuesday that said tablet shipments will eclipse laptops for the first time in North America in the fourth quarter.

Popular $199 models and a wider variety of sizes will propel fourth-quarter tablet shipments to 21.5 million units, "far exceeding" the 14.6 million laptops that are expected to ship in the same period, the market researcher said on Tuesday.

Apple's most inexpensive iPad, the Mini, is also spurring sales.
Apple's most inexpensive iPad, the Mini, is also spurring sales. CNET