Tablet shipments to reach 253 million by 2016

A new report by analyst firm Juniper Research forecasts that the number of tablet shipments will reach 253 million by 2016, nearly a five-fold increase from the 55.2 million tablets the company expects to reach the market in 2011.

With a second generation of Apple’s iPad hitting the market earlier in the year, other smartphone vendors have followed suit, with HTC, LG, Motorola and RIM launching first generation models in 2011. And as other opportunities elsewhere in the PC market diminish, leading players from this space – including Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Toshiba – are also joining the fray.

Over half of annual tablet shipments will have cellular connections by 2016
Shipments of tablets with additional cellular connectivity are currently much lower than those with only Wi-Fi network access, but Juniper is forecasting the balance will shift significantly.

Network access will play a key role; 4G networks in developed markets will enable richer services over cellular connections, and the lack of fixed-line infrastructure in emerging markets will make cellular connections a must-have as tablets are adopted in these regions.

Report author Daniel Ashdown adds that operator retail strategy also has a part to play: “Multi-device plans (for a smartphone and a tablet) will overcome the problem of consumers not wanting to pay another subscription.”

Microsoft’s official announcement that its Windows 8 OS will be orientated for tablets is another strong indication that mobile, in particular smartphones and tablets, is the fastest growing space in consumer technology. Microsoft’s Office suite will also add to the attraction of tablets within the enterprise space.

Juniper’s report forecasts that nearly a fifth of annual tablet shipments will reach the enterprise space by 2016, as business continues to realise the potential of the device for content creation.