Tablet shipments to top laptops: Thank Nexus 7, iPad Mini

Tablet shipments in North America are on track in the fourth quarter to exceed laptops for the first time.

The $199 Nexus 7 has been a catalyst in driving tablet shipments to surpass laptops this quarter, says NPD DisplaySearch.

Tablet shipments will eclipse laptops for the first time in North America, driven by price and variety, says NPD DisplaySearch.

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, according to a forecast today by DisplaySearch's Richard Shim.

And starting in 2013 in North America, tablet shipments are expected to exceed notebook shipments on an annual basis for the first time; 80 million tablets versus 63.8 million notebooks, he said.

"This Black Friday and the shopping season to follow will be the fuel to stoke the demand," Shim wrote. "The $199 price point has increasingly become the target to match or beat with the introductions of Google's $199 Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire 7."

The composition of the tablet market has changed from the market-defining 9.7-inch iPad in 2010 to 7-inch, 7.9-inch, 8.9-inch, 10.1-inch, and 10.6-inch tablet sizes this year, spanning iOS, Android, and Windows 8 operating systems, according to Shim.

Apple launched the 7.9-inch iPad Mini, which starts at $329, earlier this month at the same time as the latest version of the iPad. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has estimated that the bulk of first-weekend iPad sales -- 2 million to 2.5 million out of a total 3 million -- were for the smaller tablet.

In a blog post last month, Shim said of the iPad Mini: "The new low price point is expected to appeal to a wider audience and drive up demand."

Meanwhile, the Nexus 7 is selling at a clip of about one million per month, according to a recent comment from Asus, who manufacturers the tablet.

On a worldwide basis, tablet shipments aren't expected to out-ship notebooks until 2015, when 275.9 million tablets are projected to ship, as compared to 270 million notebooks.

(Note that Digitimes Research says worldwide tablet shipments will exceed laptops in 2013 on the back of a combination of branded Android tablets and an explosive white-box Android tablet market in Asia.)

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