For Windows 8 tablets, a weak forecast

Don't look for tablets sporting Windows RT to have a big impact in the next year or two, says NPD DisplaySearch -- as it boosts its expectations for the tablet market overall.

Brooke Crothers
Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
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NPD DisplaySearch

Expect to see a lot of tablets milling about next year. Just don't expect to find Windows 8 on a lot of them.

Market researcher NPD DisplaySearch has upped its tablet forecast for 2013 to more than 180 million units, in a report released Thursday. That forecast, however, shows Windows 8 tablets having only a small impact through 2014.

DisplaySearch had previously pegged next year's tablet market at 168.9 million but now has revised that figure to 184.2 million.

Lenovo Yoga
The Lenovo Yoga hybrid tablet with Microsoft's Metro interface. Lenovo

And by 2017, the size of the market will jump to 424.9 million units, compared to 81.6 million units in 2011.

"There's a lot of display capacity that's going to become available from major suppliers," said Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch. "The television market is in a bit of a slump and notebooks aren't growing like they have in the past. The tablet is a high-growth market right now and there is going to be a lot more investment there."

Shim continued. "The folks in Cupertino (Apple) keep talking about how tablets will exceed notebook shipments. Well, we're starting to see that as well."

The forecast estimates that in 2016 more tablet PCs will be shipped than notebook PCs.

But those big numbers don't necessarily apply to Windows 8. At least, not in the next 24 months.

Next year, the market for Windows 8 tablets, sporting Windows RT, will only be about 4 million, growing to 11.6 million in 2014. As of last month, the Microsoft operating system running on ARM chips was officially dubbed Windows RT, or Windows Runtime -- essentially, the Metro part of Windows 8.

Shim acknowledges that there's more uncertainty in the Windows tablet forecast because players and products have not been announced yet. "I'm being a little conservative for Windows 8," he said.

In 2013, DisplaySearch has Apple's iOS at about 134 million units. "Let's face it, [Windows RT] is fighting a pretty steep uphill battle against iOS," he said.

Nevertheless, iOS will eventually cede ground to others. Share will fall from 72.1 percent in 2012 to 50.9 percent in 2017, DisplaySearch said. And Android -- which is forecast at at 44 million in 2013 -- will jump from 22.5 percent to 40.5 percent over the same time period. Windows RT is forecast to have 7.5 percent of the market by 2017.