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The future of the fondleslab belongs to the Fire

Well, devices the same size, price as the Amazon Kindle tab

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Well over half the of the tablet market will be comprised of cheap tablets by 2016, it has been forecast.

Cheap is defined by market watcher ABI Research, which made the prediction, as costing less than $400 (£253). That's where the vast majority of new entrants into the arena will come, ABI reckons, many of them aimed at emerging markets.

And not just the likes of China and India. In the West, we'd note Amazon's surge to second place in most tablet market tallies, all thanks to the debut - in the US only, mark you - of the $199 (£126) 7in Kindle Fire.

The shift to lower-cost devices also means more 7in machines like the Fire. Right now, tablets with a screen that's 9in or above account for 75 per cent of the 220-odd devices ABI believes are currently in the market. Pretty much all of the larger models are iPad 2s.

It'll be the 7-9in segment that will dominate by 2016, accounting for 60 per cent of the tablet market. Perhaps Apple's rumoured 7.85in 'iPad Mini' will be one of them. Maybe it won't be cheap and that, of itself, will mess up ABI's tablet forecast.

Meanwhile, the researcher reckons shipments of e-book readers will increase 20 per cent this year, after experiencing 33 per cent growth during 2011. To what extent this growth will hold back the cheap tablet market, ABI didn't say. ®

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