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IHS iSuppli: Apple To Boost 7-Inch Tablet Market

El Segundo, Calif. — If Apple launches a 7-inch iPad today as widely expected, the company will help trigger a doubling of worldwide 7-inch tablet shipments in 2012 and a near-doubling in 2013, said IHS iSuppli Display Materials & Systems Service.

Apple’s move will also trigger a movement by current suppliers of 7-inch tablets to offer 8-inch models to differentiate themselves, iSuppli said.

Sales of tablets with displays of around 7 inches will jump by about 100 percent in 2012 to 34 million units, up from last year’s 17 million, and 2013 sales will rise another 96 percent to 67 million, iSuppli said.

Just as Apple dominates the market for 9.7-inch tablets, “the company is poised to rule the market for 7.x [around 7-inch] products, driving rapid growth of the segment in 2012 and 2013,” said Rhoda Alexander, director of IHS’s tablet and monitor research. Apple “will successfully position the smaller iPad as a device that will be attractive and easy to adopt for both new and returning customers,” she said. “This will spur rapid sales growth and provide tough competition for other companies contending in this size range.”

The 7-inch size range will account for 28 percent of all tablets in 2012 and 33 percent in 2013, up from 24 percent in 2011, IHS said. The company said its 2013 forecast could go higher if Apple overcomes component-supply issues.

The major factor limiting shipments of the smaller iPad will not be demand but a combination of production challenges and potential component supply issues,” Alexander said. “Reported production difficulties point to the likelihood that Apple is once again pushing design boundaries with the new product. Sources also indicate there have been some supply issues for parts used in the Apple Lightning connector and in the display. If Apple can resolve these issues rapidly, 2013 shipments and sales may exceed the current forecast dramatically.”

Android-based tablet competitors such as Amazon and Google have used the 7-inch size “as a way to find a competitive niche compared to the bigger 9.7-inch iPad,” Alexander continued, but with the expected arrival of the smaller iPad, “these companies are increasingly looking at the 8.x-inch and larger categories as they seek to find new avenues of differentiation compared to Apple.”

New tablets based on Microsoft’s Windows RT and Windows 8 operating systems are likely to focus on products with 10-inch-and-larger displays, although there may be some offerings with displays as small as 8-inch, she noted.