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Tablet sales will climb to $64B this year, ABI says

The tech research firm says "the tide is definitely turning toward Android-based tablets," with Samsung and others continuing to erode Apple's early success in the market.

Apple's iPad Mini
Josh Miller/CNET
The tablet market should post strong growth this year, ABI Research said, as the traditional computing market slumps.

The tech research firm expects tablet sales to climb 28 percent this year to $64 billion. In terms of shipments, ABI projected a jump of 38 percent to 150 million in 2013.

"The convenience and mobility benefits afforded by tablet computers are showing no signs of slowing interest after record unit shipments and revenues were reported by device vendors in 2012," ABI said.

The tablet growth rate contrasts sharply with the traditional computing market, though PC shipments should still be about double the number of tablets in 2013. International Data Corp. last month projected global computer shipments this year would total 345.8 million, but the tech research firm has since warned it likely will lower the forecast because of dismal first-quarter sales. Tablet sales are expected to catch up to PCs within the next couple years.

PC sales have been weak for quite some time, with quarterly results from computer and semiconductor makers reflecting the hard times. The sector is not only being hurt by the weak economy, but also by consumers opting for mobile devices instead of traditional PCs. Microsoft's latest OS was expected to boost sales, but analysts now believe Windows 8 is actually slowing PC sales.

Tech research firms Gartner and IDC earlier this week said first-quarter PC shipments posted an ugly slump in the first three months of the year, the worst since IDC started tracking the figures in 1994. Quarterly shipments fell below 80 million units for the first time since the second quarter of 2009, Gartner added. Those results, the fourth quarterly drop in a row, raise questions about the future of the PC industry and what traditional players -- like Microsoft -- will do to adapt.

ABI today noted that Apple continues to rule the tablet market, but "the tide is definitely turning toward Android-based tablets," such as those from Samsung. About 60 percent of last year's tablet shipments used Apple's iOS operating system software while 37 percent used Android. The remaining 3 percent were Windows, BlackBerry, or unidentified other operating systems.

The Samsung Note 10.1 Josh Miller/CNET

Apple's iPad Mini "was a timely introduction," but ABI remains cautious about the financial impact it's having on Apple. ABI believes the first quarter will have been the first time production was able to meet demand for the iPad Mini, which should provide a better sense of how much larger iPad volume has shifted to the smaller device.

Samsung is one of the most likely companies to challenge Apple in tablets, ABI said, with the company's success in smartphones, Android, and the Galaxy Note 2 expected to translate to tablets in 2013.

"A well-executed Samsung tablet strategy could double the company's market share this year," said ABI analyst Jeff Orr. He added that there are few "fast followers" able to emulate Samsung's position, suggesting Android itself needs more innovation to close the gap with Apple.