Tablets such as the iPad are expected to be the growth driver for the mobile computer market over the next few years. Tablet shipments will surpass notebook shipments in 2016, according to the latest info from NPD DisplaySearch (

Overall mobile computer shipments will grow from 347 million units in 2012 to over 809 million units by 2017, notes the research group. While notebook shipments are expected to increase from 208 million units in 2012 to 393 million units by 2017, tablet shipments are expected to grow from 121 million units to 416 million units in this period, for a compound annual growth rate of 28%.

A key driver for tablet growth is adoption in mature markets (including North America, Japan and Western Europe), which will account for 66% of shipments in 2012 and remain in the 60% range throughout the forecast period, according to NPD DisplaySearch. Tablet shipments into mature markets will grow from 80 million units in 2012 to 254 millions units by 2017.

“Consumer preference for mobile computing devices is shifting from notebook to tablet PCs, particularly in mature markets,” says Richard Shim, senior analyst at NPD DisplaySearch. “While the lines between tablet and notebook PCs are blurring, we expect mature markets to be the primary regions for tablet PC adoption. 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.”

Building upon convenience-oriented features including instant-on capability, long battery life and extreme portability, tablets are expected to evolve in form factor and performance, making them a compelling alternative to notebooks, says NPD DisplaySearch. Tablets are expected to incorporate multi-core processors, increasingly stable operating systems, growing app libraries and higher resolution displays, adds the research group.

In addition, notebooks are also evolving to meet the challenge from tablets. Thinner form factors, higher resolution displays and touch functionality features are expected to increase. The notebook market will remain the largest part of the mobile market during the forecast period, accounting for 60% of mobile computer shipments in 2012, declining to 49% by 2017, notes NPD DisplaySearch.