Tablet fever will grip more than a third of all U.S. adults by 2016, according to Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.
In a report released yesterday, Forrester upped its estimates for U.S. tablet ownership, now forecasting that 112.5 million adults, or 34 percent of the population, will own a tablet in another four years. If that prediction proves correct, it means the industry will sell almost 293 million tablets in the six years from 2010 to 2016.
Europe is also getting into the act.
Forrester expects 105.7 million tablet users to surface in the EU-7 by 2016--30 percent of the population in those countries. The research firm estimates that only 43 percent of Apple's 55 million iPad owners live in the U.S., with the rest residing in the 90 other countries where the popular tablet is sold.
Tablets are also on the rise in the workplace. Currently, 37 percent of U.S. tablet owners use their devices on the job, according to Epps. A Forrester study of businesses abroad found that employees in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Mexico led the way for tablet use at work.
The main battle for tablet buyers has so far been between Apple and Android.
The iPad has dominated the tablet market since its debut more than two years ago. But Android devices have gradually been eating away at the iPad's lead. Yet it's not Motorola, Samsung, HTC, or other traditional Android vendors that are grabbing some of Apple's market. It's more the impact from Amazon's Kindle Fire and even Barnes & Noble's Nook tablet, according to Epps.
"We believe that Amazon and B&N have actually expanded the addressable market for tablets in the U.S. by launching their tablets at significantly lower price points than the iPad," the analyst said.
Price makes a difference in other countries as well. The iPad is popular in the major cites across China. But Lenovo's A1 Android tablet and other cheaper alternatives have also won over buyers.
Ultimately, though, consumers need a better reason beyond a low price to buy a tablet. Forrester's own data found that the main reason many people still steer clear of tablets is because they don't see the need for one.
"It's about the services," Epps explained. "What you can do with the device--which is why Apple, Amazon, and B&N have succeeded in the U.S. where pure hardware plays have failed."
Eyeing the 2012 tablet market, the analyst offered some opinions to the major players looking to eke out more market share.
She believes Apple should unveil a smaller and cheaper iPad to compete with the Kindle Fire. Reports have surfaced over the past few months that Apple may be readying an iPad mini, in large part to counter Amazon's popular tablet.
On the flip side, Epps thinks Amazon should counter Apple by licensing its customized Android platform to other tablet makers.
And with Microsoft's tablet-oriented Windows 8 debuting this year, the analyst advises vendors such as Lenovo, Toshiba, Samsung, and HTC to abandon their Android efforts and focus on the world of Windows.