Sales of Apple's wildly popular iPad are ramping at an accelerated rate of 156% year over year.
According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, this puts tablets in an enviable position to become "measurably larger" than the PC market as a whole.
Indeed, Jaffray believes Apple will sell 12 million iPads in the current March quarter - with year-over-year growth accelerating to 156 percent. In comparison, the iPad saw 111 percent year-over-year growth in the December 2011 quarter.
In an industry note obtained by AppleInsider, Munster wrote that he saw Apple retaining a majority share of the tablet market through at least the next three years, selling 66 million iPads in 2012 and 176 million by 2015. "We believe the unprecedented ramp of the iPad over the past year is evidence that the tablet market will be measurably larger than the PC market," Munster added.
Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz termed the recent iPad launch "staggering" and emphasized the tablet was in a position to experience "break-out growth" in both the consumer market and enterprise space.
"Currently, the enterprise vertical represents less than 10% of tablet units, but once Office is available on the iPad, we think that enterprises will regard the tablet as a productivity device," Moskowitz explained.
Although global PC shipments were up in 2011 - a trend that is expected to continue in 2012 - analysts at IDC believe the long-term outlook for the market is somewhat murky.
"2012 and 2013 will bring significant challenges for Microsoft and the PC community," IDC analyst Jay Chou confirmed.
"[Yes], Windows 8 and ultrabooks are a definitive step in the right direction to recapturing the relevance of the PC, but its promise of meshing a tablet experience in a PC body will likely entail a period of trial and error, thus the market will likely see modest growth in the near term."