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Tablets closing the gap on laptop market

Insatiable consumer demand for tablet computers will see unit shipments increase almost fourfold by 2016, substantially outpacing the growth of the laptop sector, predicts the latest publication from business intelligence experts GBI Research.

The new report states that 73 million tablets were shipped last year, but by 2016 that figure is expected to reach 275 million, showing an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 19%.

By comparison, notebook shipments reached 198 million in 2011 and are forecast to hit 318 million by 2016, at a more modest CAGR of 7.6%.

Products such as Apple’s ubiquitous iPad and Amazon’s Kindle series are taking the world by storm, meeting the needs of casual computer users in smaller, easier to use and often cheaper devices. Correspondingly, laptop manufacturers are increasingly targeting business users who typically require more powerful systems with a wider range of applications.

Tablet purchases are also affecting the replacement cycles of laptops, says the report. When a consumer purchases a tablet they are more likely to wait before replacing an existing laptop, thereby reducing sales.

However, despite the seemingly irrepressible march of the tablet industry, laptops are not giving up without a fight. Thinner, lighter and potentially quicker Ultrabooks represent the future of the laptop industry, and are expected to represent almost half of all sold by 2016.

Soon Ultrabooks with touchscreen technology and ultra-thin key keyboards will hit the market, going some way to bridge the gap between the aesthetically and ergonomically pleasing tablet, and the more technologically capable laptop.

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