Led by the iPad, tablet computers will become the fourth largest semiconductor market by 2014, according to new data by the iHS iSuppli research group (http://www.isuppli.com). That’s up from the 35th position in 2010.

Sales of semiconductors for use in media tablets are expected to skyrocket to US$18.2 billion in 2014, up from $2.6 billion in 2010, the year that Apple kicked off the market with the introduction of the iPad. In 2014, sales of semiconductors for tablets are expected to be exceeded only by mobile handsets, mobile computers and desktop computers. In contrast, media tablet semiconductor sales in 2010 ranked lower than the relatively small-scale applications of workstations, USB flash drives, mobile wireless broadband wireless access devices and flat-panel monitors.

“The speed of the media tablet’s rise from near insignificance to top-tier prominence is unprecedented in the history of the global semiconductor industry,” says Dale Ford, head of electronics & semiconductor research for IHS. “Driven primarily by Apple’s iPad, the media tablet in four years is expected to scale semiconductor heights that took more than a decade for other products to attain, such as notebook PCs and cellphones. This meteoric ascension will have major repercussions for the global semiconductor industry, as it realigns to accommodate the fast growth and vast size of the media tablet market.”