Reflecting shifts in both the competitive landscape and consumer demand, the tablet market is poised to accommodate new form factors and accessory options that will bring these devices closer to the capabilities of notebooks, according to a new report from The NPD Group’s Connected Intelligence. The report, “Tablets: Resizing the Smartphone, Redefining the Notebook,” examines the impact of upcoming competitors to Apple’s iPad (including Android 4.0 and Windows 8), competition versus ultrabooks, accessory options, and implications of the growing tablet market for wireless carriers, cable operators, and content providers.

While the introduction of Windows 8 tablets later in 2012 will not steal significant share from the notebook market, it will be a strong factor behind the blurring of PCs and tablets.  Many Windows 8 tablets stand to have larger screen sizes and more advanced configurations, but they will, most importantly, have the ability to function as a full PC, causing PC vendors to rethink some marketing and sales strategies.

“PC vendors must balance the opportunity to sell an integrated Windows 8 device that can potentially operate in both tablet and clamshell form factors with the opportunity to sell secondary companion tablet devices that may be smaller and less expensive,” said Ross Rubin, executive director of NPD Connected Intelligence. “Among consumers who are looking to purchase a new tablet, screen size and keyboards, two main components of a PC, are important characteristics for these future purchases.”

According to the report, 40% of tablet purchase intenders who have a screen size in mind would prefer a screen smaller than 10 inches.  Access to a physical keyboard is desired by 40% of consumers who plan to purchase a tablet.  Of that 40%, most prefer an integrated keyboard over a detachable or docking keyboard.

“The lack of a keyboard has been a defining characteristic of most tablets on the market,” said Rubin. “However, access to a keyboard is the most popular reason why consumers who own both a tablet and a notebook use their notebook for tasks such as Web access and personal productivity. As tablets expand from content consumption to content creation, consumers are seeking a broader array of input options and screen sizes.”

[Source:  “Tablets: Resizing the Smartphone, Redefining the Notebook.”  The NPD Group/Connected Intelligence.  14 Mar. 2012.  Web.  20 Mar. 2012.]