August 22, 2011, 4:57 PM — More competition and aggressive pricing will push shipments of tablet computers to 250 million units in 2017, according to market research firm In-Stat.
The study concluded that iOS and Android will "maintain over 90% of the market share with Windows as a distant 3rd" by 2017.
Though what that really means is Apple will remain the dominant tablet player, since it currently has about 80% market share and isn't expected to slip below 70% any time soon.
In-Stat also predicts that larger (9-inch to 11-inch) tablets will own 56% of the market by 2017.
Current estimates for total tablet sales in 2012 range from 24 million to 43 million, so even using the high end, that's strong forecast growth through 2017.
"The tablet market and its associated ecosystem are still evolving," Jim McGregor, In-Stat's chief technology strategist, said in a statement. "Over the next few generations we will see more differentiation between devices that are targeting different market segments and usage models. In addition, competitive device and service pricing will bring tablets into the mainstream consumer and enterprise markets."
Of course, Apple's iPad already is invading the enterprise market, with 90% of Fortune 500 companies reporting testing or deploying the tablet.
In-Stat said tablet growth will be fueled not only by the quality and functionality of the devices, but by the emergence of mobile applications, cloud computing and new business models embraced by wireless carriers.
"Wireless operator business models could have a tremendous impact on future tablet demand," In-State wrote.