Expect to see a lot of tablets milling about next year. Just don't expect to find Windows 8 on a lot of them.
Market researcher NPD DisplaySearch has upped its tablet forecast for 2013 to more than 180 million units, in a report released Thursday. That forecast, however, shows Windows 8 tablets having only a small impact through 2014.
DisplaySearch had previously pegged next year's tablet market at 168.9 million but now has revised that figure to 184.2 million.
And by 2017, the size of the market will jump to 424.9 million units, compared to 81.6 million units in 2011.
"There's a lot of display capacity that's going to become available from major suppliers," said Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch. "The television market is in a bit of a slump and notebooks aren't growing like they have in the past. The tablet is a high-growth market right now and there is going to be a lot more investment there."
Shim continued. "The folks in Cupertino (Apple) keep talking about how tablets will exceed notebook shipments. Well, we're starting to see that as well."
The forecast estimates that in 2016 more tablet PCs will be shipped than notebook PCs.
But those big numbers don't necessarily apply to Windows 8. At least, not in the next 24 months.
Next year, the market for Windows 8 tablets, sporting Windows RT, will only be about 4 million, growing to 11.6 million in 2014. As of last month, the Microsoft operating system running on ARM chips was officially dubbed Windows RT, or Windows Runtime -- essentially, the Metro part of Windows 8.
Shim acknowledges that there's more uncertainty in the Windows tablet forecast because players and products have not been announced yet. "I'm being a little conservative for Windows 8," he said.
In 2013, DisplaySearch has Apple's iOS at about 134 million units. "Let's face it, [Windows RT] is fighting a pretty steep uphill battle against iOS," he said.
Nevertheless, iOS will eventually cede ground to others. Share will fall from 72.1 percent in 2012 to 50.9 percent in 2017, DisplaySearch said. And Android -- which is forecast at at 44 million in 2013 -- will jump from 22.5 percent to 40.5 percent over the same time period. Windows RT is forecast to have 7.5 percent of the market by 2017.