Media tablet shipments surpassed netbook shipments this quarter, reaching 13.6 million units, compared to just 7.3 million netbooks. Netbooks had previously led the way with 8.4 million shipments in the first quarter of 2011 (1Q11), compared to just 6.4 million media tablets, according to new data from ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com).

“This is a trend that we do not expect will reverse,” says Jeff Orr, group director, mobile devices. “As they are different segments, this is not a direct replacement behavior, but a changing of leadership for the most interesting device type.”

Driving media tablet interest is Appleā€™s iPad 2. Sixty-eight percent of the media tablet shipments in 2Q11 consisted of iPad models. Consumers are choosing tablets over netbooks for a number of reasons.

“Media tablets are perceived to be easy to use, compared to the keyboard and mouse interface of a netbook computer,” says Orr. “Those who have avoided PCs because they are difficult to use — think the Baby Boomer generation and older — see media tablets as an opportunity to re-engage with Internet access. Cost, however, is certainly not a reason driving tablet interest, as the average media tablet costs approximately $600 and the average netbook is only about half of that.”

While 32 million netbooks and 60 million media tablets are expected to ship worldwide in 2011, netbooks still hold interest in underserved countries, where computer penetration to the home, along with broadband services, are not widely available. Media tablet shipments will primarily cater to the early adopter consumer audiences of Western Europe, the US, Japan, and South Korea, according to ABI Research.