Some 32 million media tablets were shipped around the world in the third quarter of 2012, according to a market update from Futuresource Consulting.
This represents 75 per cent growth by volume year on year, on track to reach 137 million for the full 2012 year and to triple over the next five years to 352 million in 2016.
"We are seeing significant industry growth across all key world territories, with the majority of tablet market activity still originating from consumer purchases," said Simon Bryant, head of consumer electronics at Futuresource.
Education and enterprise segments are also growing and now comprise 11 per cent of the market. Education was three per cent of the total market in Q3 – but 26 per cent of B2B shipments.
In the UK, 6.4m units are expected to be sold in 2012, up from 3.8m in 2011.
The US is continuing to lead the global market, accounting for 43 per cent of the market with nearly 90 million devices sold by the end of this year. Data from sales in China is now included, though, Bryant noted.
"We have been monitoring the market in China for some time now, and as its domestic white-label tablets continue to exert an influence on global volumes we are now including this data in our forecasting," he said.
"Between Q1 and Q3 this year, the Chinese white-label market accounted for about six million of the units shipped – 43 per cent of the total Chinese tablet market – and these white-label products could achieve nine to 10 million units for 2012 or about 50 per cent of the total Chinese tablet market."
Futuresource found that Europe has bought into the form factor more cautiously, achieving shipments of 45 million when Q4 concludes.
Brazil, Russia and India are enjoying growth rates more than double those of the US or western Europe, from a much smaller base.
According to Bryant, price drops in premium high-end products are making products available to a wider user base, with many consumers already in a position to upgrade.
For example, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is being pushed by a reduced pricing strategy across Europe, which has led to a lift in sales.
"The average trade price per unit is currently down below $370 (£230), representing a 24 per cent drop in price year on year.
"Despite this price erosion, the overall value of the tablet market will continue to climb, and prospects for the industry are extremely positive, with strong growth throughout the forecast period to 2016," he said.
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