Will Tablet Shipments Skip Ahead of Notebooks in 2013?

For years, notebook PCs have been the go-to device for mobile computing, but is this the dawn of a new era? Tablets are everywhere these days, they're dropping in price, and according to NPD DisplaySearch, they're going to fly off store shelves faster than notebooks in 2013.

NPD DisplaySearch forecasts that tablet shipments will reach 240 million units by the end of the year, trumping notebook shipments, which are expected to reach 207 million units. That's a pretty significant divide, and what's making it possible is "a new class of small tablets," such as the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire. Tablets with screens between 7 and 8 inches are expected to account for 45 percent of the total shipments, or 108 million units in 2013, jumping way ahead of the 9.7-inch category dominated by the iPad, which will account for a 17 percent share.

Google Nexus 7

"The tablet PC market saw increasing investments in North America in the second half of 2012, from major brands that tested not only new screen sizes and price points, but also unconventional business models to support their efforts. The subsequent increase in shipments and demand underscored the benefits of segmentation in the market as it drove rapid market expansion," said Richard Shim, senior analyst with NPD DisplaySearch. "In 2013, further investments are expected worldwide, stoking demand to the point that tablet PC shipments will exceed those of notebook PCs."

Meanwhile, notebook demand has been slowing worldwide, NPD DisplaySearch says. One thing the research firm didn't touch on, however, is the trend towards hybrid devices that function as both a notebook and a tablet. Windows 8 has ushered in a new generation of mobile devices that, if well received, might make it difficult to tally notebook versus tablet shipments.