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As New iPad Is Expected, Tablet Market Grows Even Faster

One-Third of U.S. Adults Will Own a Tablet By 2016

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Apple is expected to launch its third-generation iPad on Wednesday. So what does that mean for you? Millions more consumers will be toting tablets in the next few months.

Apple's iPad 2
Apple's iPad 2

One-third of American adults, or 112.5 million people, are expected to own a tablet by 2016, according to a new report from Forrester Research. That's up from the 60 million U.S. consumers expected to own tablets by year-end -- not bad for a market that barely existed two years ago.

Among tablets, iPad is still the market leader by far -- Apple has sold 55 million iPads sold through 2011. However, Amazon's first full-color touch tablet, Kindle Fire, released during the holidays, and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet have also fared well. Forrester gives Amazon and Barnes & Noble credit for expanding the market with lower-priced products.

So what's been the formula for success for these leading tablet makers? Services. It's not the gee-whiz hardware that sells tablets, it's the e-books, apps and other content tablets provide. Apple said Monday that it had passed 25 billion app downloads.

The tablet market -- essentially created by the iPad's introduction -- is even more explosive than the smartphone market. After less than two years, U.S. mobile subscribers were using almost 40 million tablets, according to ComScore. It took smartphones seven years to reach that level of adoption.

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