New figures just published by NPD DisplaySearch shows that there are now more display panels being shipped to be incorporated into Tablet PCs than for laptops. The NPD Blog suggests this is a milestone for the industry and that it is an important indicator in the shift away from clamshell notebooks.
In October panels shipped for notebook use amounted to 16.9 million whereas panels intended to be incorporated into tablets totalled 18.7 million. Looking at the chart below you can see the tablet panel shipments gain momentum throughout the year while the laptop panel demand is remarkably constant. NPD suggests that notebook PC makers have been hit by some slow moving inventory issues in October causing a large dip in demand from September onwards.
Windows 8 has had an interesting impact upon laptop panel shipments. NPD says that panel demand for laptops has also been impacted by PC makers going to the drawing board for new designs. So while the transitionary Windows 7/Windows 8 breed of laptops are being sold, system builders are looking to see what designs will sell best with Windows 8. We know Acer is playing this wait-and-see game with regard to Windows RT. When the manufacturers know which way to point the ship to get the wind in their sails there may well be a bump in the laptop (touch?) panel shipment figures.
Though we have slow-moving inventory of laptops, manufacturers are confident enough of tablet sales during the Christmas period to build up inventories says NPD. In an earlier report by NPD an analyst looking at North American tablet shipments for Q4 forecast that over 21 million tablets are to be sold compared to 15 million notebooks in the same period. Much of the swing would take place over the recent “Black Friday” weekend; this will be the “catalyst” for the change according to Richard Shim.
2012 has really been a big year for tablets so far with big players such as Google, Amazon and Barnes & Noble wading into the market with affordable iPad alternatives. What is left of the year will, without doubt, see many more tablets sold and they might well be the biggest selling item from the kids wish lists this Xmas.