Will E-Readers Follow Netbooks to Oblivion?

By Gary Kim March 12, 2013

Not every innovation in the gadget space is a success, or a relatively long-lived success. Some would say tablets have destroyed the netbook market, for example. But e-readers might be next.  

As smaller tablets gain popularity, those sales will come at the expense of e-readers, which then become special-purpose devices that multi-function small tablets can displace. That might have immediate and serious implications for devices such as the Nook e-reader, and longer term implications for the way Amazon designs its Kindle devices.

One might argue there is some possible future role for low-price e-readers, but for the most part the role will be eclipsed by general purpose small tablets or larger screen tablets.

IDC believes e-reader shipments peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units. After declining to 18.2 million units in 2012, the category is expected to grow only modestly in 2013 and 2014, before it begins a gradual and permanent decline beginning in 2015.

One reason for that belief is the faster growing volumes of smaller, lower-priced devices in the tablet market, that will boost sales for the global tablet market to 190.9 million, IDC now says.

On average, tablet sales will grow about 11 percent annually between 2013 and 2016, IDC forecasts, with an estimated 350 million tablet shipments by the end of 2017.

"One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below eight inches in screen size,” said Jitesh Ubrani, IDC research analyst.

Android-based  tablets expanded their share of the market notably in 2012, and IDC expects that trend to continue in 2013.

Android's share of the market is forecast to reach a peak of 48.8 percent in 2013 compared to 41.5 percent in IDC's previous forecast.

Android's gains come at the expense of Apple's iOS, which is expected to slip from 51 percent of the market in 2012 to 46 percent in 2013.

Longer term, both iOS and Android will eventually relinquish some market share to Windows-based tablets, with Windows 8 predicted to grow from one percent of the market in 2012 to 7.4 percent in 2017, IDC predicts.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing Editor

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