In a trend kick-started by the Apple iPad, more than 46 million media tablets are expected to ship in 2014, according to the new "Worldwide and U.S. Media Tablet 2010-2014 Forecast" released by IDC on Thursday.
Up substantially from the 7.6 million tablets likely to ship this year, that forecast points to a compound annual growth rate of 57.4 percent. Of course, that includes not just the iPad but other tablets following its lead and competing in the marketplace, including the new Archos 7 Home Tablet, a tablet from the likes of Intel, and a potential tablet from the team of Google and Verizon.
IDC's definition of a media tablet is one that sports a 7-inch to 12-inch display, is powered by an ARM processor, and runs a lighter operating system such as Apple's iPhone OS or Google's Android. Such tablets don't offer built-in hardware keyboards but instead ask you to use a stylus or your finger to navigate. That description sets them apart from tablet PCs, such as the Archos 9, which are powered by x86 processors and run full PC operating systems.
Demand for media tablets will be hugely fueled by the amount and variety of third-party apps that give users the content and services they crave, noted IDC.
"The availability of apps unique to media tablets and that differentiate the experience of using one compared with a PC or smartphone will be crucial for driving consumer demand," IDC program director Susan Kevorkian said in a statement. "As the category matures and more media tablet-optimized apps become available, IDC expects that media tablets will evolve beyond nice-to-have devices and become necessities for many consumers."
Beyond just tablets, touch screen devices in general are proving a hit with consumers, according to DisplaySearch's "2010 Touch Panel Market Analysis," released Wednesday.
Total shipments of touch screens hit 606 million last year, a 29 percent boost from 2008. Demand for mobile phones, MP3 players, and GPS units have driven much of that recent growth. Phones proved the biggest factor, with 376 million touch screens shipped for cell phones in 2009. But consumer appetite for all-in-one PCs, Netbooks, and tablets will also spur further gains, according to DisplaySearch.