The tablet takeover is right around the corner. That's the upshot of a new forecast from industry research firm Canalys, which predicts that tablets will reach half of the total PC market by next year.
This coming tablet majority compares with Canalys' reporting this past February that tablets accounted for one-third of PCs. Although sales of notebook and desktop PCs continue to decline, the worldwide PC market -- including tablets, in Canalys' definition -- grew 18 percent in third quarter, when tablet shipments were 40 percent of the total.
The research firm is also predicting that Apple will remain the leading tablet vendor through the rest of this year with 30 percent of the tablet market, strengthened by its launch of the iPad Air and the upgraded iPad mini. But the report notes that Apple's emphasis on protecting its gross margins, and thus keeping its product in the premium-price range, will mean its market share will continue to decline.
Apple Decline 'Unavoidable'
Senior Analyst Tim Coulling said in a statement that "Apple's decline in PC market share is unavoidable when considering its business model," and added that Samsung is already leading the tablet market in the Europe, Middle East and Asia regions. He noted that Apple is "one of the few companies making money from the tablet boom," and, for that company, remaining highly profitable from its tablets and entire ecosystem "is of greater importance than market share statistics."
Canalys is also projecting a significant boost in Microsoft's tablet fortunes, increasing its market share to 5 percent from 2 percent last year. The research firm pointed out that Microsoft's purchase of Nokia, plus its steadily increasing position in tablets, shows that it is getting closer to "being a fully-fledged smart mobile device vendor," although it needs to address the confusing landscape of three operating systems -- Windows 8, Windows Phone and Windows RT.
The report verifies every other study that finds Android is continuing its reign as the leading mobile operating system, and Canalys projects Android will have 65 percent market share next year.
While Samsung remains the top Android tablet maker, with a 27 percent share in the third quarter, its share will decline in the face of such competitors as Acer, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard, according to the report. There is also the rise of what Canalys describes as "small-to-micro brand vendors" of tablets, such as Nextbook in the U.S. and Onda and Teclast in China.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis, told us that Android tablets are now appearing at "exceedingly inexpensive" price points, in some cases as cheap as $50.
He described the tablet landscape as having evolved into two markets -- one of "supercheap tablets, mostly used for entertainment and really beginning to emerge as competitors to TV," and the other composed of premium tablets used for a variety of tasks, including productivity. He put tablets from Apple, Microsoft and Samsung in the latter category.