It has been three years since the tablet PC made its heralded debut and racked up sales of $1.4 billion the first year. Although he introduction failed to spark the expected interest, last July sales were projected to reach $5.4 billion in 2009.

Fast forward to November and the same predictors now boldly estimate the market for 2009 to be a whooping $15 billion …. almost a threefold increase in a few months!

The science (or art) of projecting tablet sales is just about as accurate as predicting the weather.

Realistically, there are several factors that affect the outcome of any projections for the tablet market.

Market Presence – how many people have you seen pulling out a tablet in a Starbucks lately? The low market penetration is not helping post-early adapters jump in. Out of sight, Out of mind.

Market Penetration - driven by consumer need has not yet rooted. Applications for the consumer market are not obvious. OEMs must do a better job of providing a ‘raison de tare” to incent purchase.

Price – An obvious barrier which will, over time, correct itself. At a price point of $2000 plus, these machines are competing with handheld PCs.

Bulk – who needs to carry around an extra three plus pounds when a pocket PC can do almost as much with much less bulk. Inroads have been made recently by Lenovo, having just announced a tablet PC with over 7 hours of battery life and a hard drive that can expand to 120 GB, and as much as 4 GB of RAM. Dubbed the X60, this machine also boasts the support of nearly all forms of wireless connections.

B to B – Providing the greatest thrust for sales, vertical markets that include Healthcare, Real Estate and Insurance are fueling the projected threefold jump by 2009.

Will the PC tablet market hit $15 billion in 2009? With the right wind behind its sales, it might even hit $18 billion in a perfect storm scenario.

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