Tablets could conquer laptops this year and all PCs by 2015

It has long been forecast that tablets will at some point become more popular than laptops, but according to a new forecast from IDC, that shift is poised to occur this year.

The market research firm has predicted that tablet shipments will grow 58.7 per cent year over year in 2013 to reach 229.3 million units, up from 144.5 million in 2012. Meanwhile, the "slumping PC market" is expected to see negative growth for a second consecutive year, as tablet shipments outpace laptop shipments in 2013, and exceed the entire PC market - including desktops - by 2015.

Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobility Trackers, said this marks a "significant change" in consumer attitudes about computing devices and their associated ecosystems and applications.

"IDC continues to believe that PCs will have an important role in this new era of computing, especially among business users," Reith said. "But for many consumers, a tablet is a simple and elegant solution for core use cases that were previously addressed by the PC."

Though Apple has led the tablet revolution, market expansion is largely being driven by low-cost Android devices.

The worldwide average selling price (ASP) for tablets is expected to fall 10.8 per cent this year to $381 (£253). In comparison, the ASP of a PC this year is nearly double that at $635 (£422). Going forward, tablet prices are expected to drop even lower, making them accessible to an even larger group of consumers.

Beyond the price drop, there's also a major shift occurring in the tablet market around screen sizes. Specifically, tablets under 8in, like the iPad mini , are expected to overtake their larger-sized counterparts in terms of total shipments in the space of two quarters, IDC said. For more on that, see the chart above.