The imminent tablet explosion

Gartner predicts crazy growth for hot new consumer electronic devices

Lots of people, including myself, predict tablets are going to be huge sellers in the next few years (at least until the next big thing comes along). Now research firm Gartner has put some numbers on this thing, and they're pretty breath-taking.

Gartner sees worldwide media tablet sales hitting 19.5 million units this year. The firm expects that number to nearly triple in 2011 to 54.8 million units. By 2014 -- get this -- Gartner predicts media tablet sales will exceed 208 million units in 2014, nearly 11 times the number it expects to be sold this year.

According to Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner research vice president, the huge popularity of tablets in the next few years will be due to the devices' versatility and attractive pricing.

“The all-in-one nature of media tablets will result in the cannibalization of other consumer electronics devices such as e-readers, gaming devices and media players,” Milanesi said in a statement accompanying the forecast. “Mini notebooks will suffer from the strongest cannibalization threat as media tablet average selling prices (ASPs) drop below $300 over the next 2 years.”

Apple Inc.

Apple's iPad tablet

Right now Apple's iPad, which kicked off the tablet craze earlier this year, is priced starting at $499.

I think Milanesi is talking about netbooks when she refers to mini-notebooks. As I wrote Wednesday, netbooks are likely to get overwhelmed by the tablet buzz and will be lucky to carve out a small share of the market for personal computing devices.

Gartner also sees media tablets invading the enterprise market, but not necessarily to replace notebooks:

In the enterprise space, for the immediate future, the main use of media tablets is as a notebook companion or as a secondary device to take on the road or use for fast access to e-mail, calendaring, interrogating Web applications and information sources, and showing PowerPoint presentations.

What do you readers think? Is this how things are going to play out? Will organizations spring for media tablets on top of notebooks, or will workers have to buy them on their own?

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