An analyst is predicting that 8-inch, not 7- or 10-inch, tablets will be the most popular size this year.
NPD Display Search claims that Lenovo, Dell, Acer and Asus are all gearing up to produce 8-inch Android-based tablets and that the new form factor could account for between 5-10 percent of the total PC market by the end of 2013.
The research firm also notes that more and more companies are moving into tablet production to offset the impacts of falling PC sales and that, as a result, 256.5 million of the devices are expected to ship this year, up from 153.6 million in 2012.
“These new tablet PCs are part of a trend in the tablet PC market that is balancing between differentiation between increasingly larger smartphones and an expansion of the tablet PC opportunity to further drive adoption,’ says senior analyst Richard Shim, in a blog post published on June 18.
Although the research is focused on Android devices, Microsoft’s decision to make its Office software free of charge for use on tablets with a sub-10-inch display will also have played a part in many companies’ decision to investigate a mid-sized device.
However, in the same post, Shim states that he believes that the main driving force behind the shift up to an 8- from a 7-inch-screen form factor is due to Apple. “Apple’s iPad mini with its 7.9-inch display has captured a significant share of the market, despite its starting price of $329. Brands are hoping to expand this “middle class,” gaining some share and slightly better margins than 7-inch tablet PCs,” he notes.
By aping Apple’s lead, 7-inch tablets, currently the most popular form factor in terms of sales, will come to be viewed as entry-level devices and this change will no doubt fuel the price war that many tech industry experts have been predicting. Smaller tablets with excellent specs are expected to fall below $150 before the end of 2013.
It’s also worth pointing out that Apple’s decision to go with 7.9-inches rather than a 7-inch display was based on usability, not differentiation. The majority of high-performance 7-inch tablets, such as the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus-7 are set up for optimal video playback with the correct 16:9 aspect ratio.
However, in tests, Apple found that by building a tablet for video, the screen was less effective for viewing web content, game play and productivity. By increasing the screen size and using a 4:3 aspect ratio browsing is closer to the experience of using a laptop or notebook computer while videos can be shown at the correct aspect ratio via letterboxing (i.e., black lines at the top and bottom of the display).