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Gartner Forecasts Tablets Will Cannibalize More Than Just PCs

Research firm Gartner offered projections for tablet sales over the next several years, giving credence to the notion of cross-category cannibalization.

Gartner predicts tablet PC sales will reach 19.5 million units this year and nearly triple that number in 2011.

In a report issued Friday that represents one of the most aggressive forecasts for the emerging tablet segment to date, Gartner predicts that 54.8 million tablet units will sell in 2011, followed by 103.4 million in 2012, and 154.2 million in 2013. Cellular and Wi-Fi media tablets will account for 55 percent of sales in 2010, and 80 percent of sales by 2014, according to the report.

In addition to Apple's highly successful iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Cisco’s Cius could cannibalize a variety of gadgets beyond the traditional PC, Gartner said.

However, Gartner does not expect significant cannibalization of low-end consumer notebooks or open OS-based mobile phones. Instead, the research firm predicts that 7-inch tablets specifically will undermine sales of higher-end smartphones due to similarities in usage models.

’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,’ said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement. ’Mini notebooks will suffer from the strongest cannibalization threat as media tablet average selling prices (ASPs) drop below $300 over the next 2 years.’

Next: The Carrier Factor

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Milanesi said consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with the latest and most fashionable technology. She also noted the user-friendliness of tablets and the fact that they never need to be turned off or rebooted.

Carriers will also shift subsidies for mobile broadband users away from netbooks and toward tablets, Gartner said in the report. This, in turn, will lead to increased adoption of tablets by consumers, who've embraced the iPad in large part because they don't have to sign a contract to obtain 3G cellular data from AT&T.

Gartner said tablets are likely to serve as a secondary device in the enterprise space and could also thrive in the home markets well. The simplicity of the interface, the multitude of applications, and the relatively easy setup should contribute to its adoption by various members of the family unit, Gartner noted. Gartner forecasts that iPads will constitute over 80 percent of tablet sales this year, over 15 million units sold. That figure is well above the 11 million units which investors expect Apple to sell in 2010, according to The Wall Street Journal . Of the total figure, investors expect 4.7 million units to sell in the third quarter.

Gartner's prediction about iPad will be tested Monday, when Apple reports its earnings for the third quarter.

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