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Tablet shipments to pass notebooks in '14: US bank

TAIPEI--Global tablet computer shipments are forecast to surpass those of notebook computers in 2014 and represent the majority of computing devices on the back of robust demand, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said recently.

The U.S. bank raised its tablet shipment forecasts for 2012, 2013 and 2014 to 117 million, 176 million and 217 million units, respectively, up from its previous forecasts of 100 million, 137 million and 177 million units.

It also projected that notebook PC shipments will grow at a slower pace to 188 million units in 2012, 188 million units in 2013 and 197 million units in 2014.

Tablets will account for 39 percent of global computer sales in 2014, higher than the 35 percent for notebooks and 26 percent for desktop computers, the bank said.

“We believe the rising tablet demand will continue to benefit existing major manufacturers, including Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Pegatron Corp. and Quanta Computer Inc.,” Merrill Lynch analyst Robert Cheng wrote in a report dated Dec. 5.

Taiwan-based Hon Hai, known as Foxconn Technology Group in China, is the main manufacturer for Apple Inc.'s iPad and iPad mini tablet lines, the report said.

Pegatron is the assembler for the iPad mini and Microsoft Corp.'s Surface tablets, while Quanta is the contract maker for lower-priced models such as Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Fire and Google Inc.'s Nexus, according to the report.

On the other hand, Merrill Lynch said that contract manufacturers that rely heavily on notebook business, such as Taiwan-based Compal Electronics Inc., will see higher pressure in 2013 and 2014.

“We believe Compal is the one with the highest pressure to quickly pick up the tablet market,” said Cheng, adding that notebook business still accounted for 80 percent of Compal sales.

Given the lackluster sales of tablets using Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system, it will be difficult for Compal to leverage its relationship with PC brands to further expand its tablet exposure in the near term, Cheng said.

In a separate report, research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) raised its 2012 forecast for the worldwide tablet market to 122.3 million, up from its previous forecast of 117.1 million units.

It also revised upward its 2013 forecast number to 172.4 million units from 165.9 million units, and increased its 2016 forecast to 282.7 million units from 261.4 million units.

The revision was driven by surging shipments of tablets using Google's Android system and robust demand for Apple's new iPad mini, IDC said.

“Tablets continue to captivate consumers, and as the market shifts toward smaller, more mobile screen sizes and lower price points, we expect demand to accelerate in the fourth quarter and beyond,” said Tom Mainelli, a research director at IDC.

IDC now expects Android's worldwide tablet share to increase from 39.8 percent in 2011 to 42.7 percent in 2012, while Apple's share will slip from 56.3 percent to 53.8 percent during the same period.

Windows-based tablets will grab share from both Apple's iOS and Google's Android, growing from 1 percent of the worldwide market in 2011 to 2.9 percent in 2012, the research firm said.

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