Tablet PCs, such as Apple's iPad, are expected to be the primary growth driver for the mobile PC market over the next few years.
According to NPD DisplaySearch, tablet shipments will outpace notebook shipments in 2016 - with overall mobile PC shipments projected to jump from 347M units in 2012 to over 809M units by 2017.
A key driver for tablet PC growth is the adoption in mature markets (including North America, Japan and Western Europe), which is slated to account for 66% of shipments in 2012 and hover in the 60% range throughout the above-mentioned forecast period.
Indeed, tablet PC shipments into mature markets are projected to grow from 80M units in 2012 to approximately 254M units by 2017.
"Consumer preference for mobile computing devices is shifting from notebook to tablet PCs, particularly in mature markets. While the lines between tablet and notebook PCs are blurring, we expect mature markets to be the primary regions for tablet PC adoption," explained Richard Shim, senior analyst at NPD DisplaySearch.
"New entrants are tending to launch their initial products in mature markets. Services and infrastructure needed to create compelling new usage models are often better established in mature markets."
Shim also noted that tablet PCs will rapidly evolve in terms of both form factor and performance - making them a "compelling" alternative to notebook PCs.
"Tablet PCs are expected to incorporate multi-core processors, increasingly stable operating systems, growing app libraries and higher resolution displays... In addition, notebook PCs are also evolving to meet the challenge from tablet PCs. Thinner form factors, higher resolution displays and touch functionality features are expected to increase," he added.