Windows 8 could flourish because it supports ultrabooks that behave as both tablets and keyboard devices, according to a Forrester study which looked into the headroom of how such products will be received once they hit full production compared with devices like the upcoming iPad 3.
In its "US Consumer Tablet Forecast Update, 2011 To 2016" report, the firm says that sales of these chameleon mobiles will be greatly helped by Microsoft's desire to sell Windows 8 with all its business and touch features into enterprises.
"Devices like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga (top image) take advantage of the next-generation Windows capability to toggle between the touch-dominant Metro user interface (UI) and the traditional touchpad-and keyboard 'desktop' modes," says the report authored by Sarah Rotman Epps.
"Although we anticipate that retailers will struggle to effectively merchandise touch-plus devices, we think that Microsoft is sufficiently motivated to help retailers and OEMs overcome this challenge. As a result, we've built some room for growth in the touch-plus category into our updated tablet forecast."
While iPads dominate at the moment, that could change if businesses start paying for all of the tablets used at work. According the report, about half, 52%, of business tablet users say they bought the tablet they use for work outright, while another 17% split the cost with their employer. Business paid in full for 28% of work tablets, the survey says.
Even with no Windows 8 tablets available, Windows 8 is commanding attention from potential tablet users. Of 1,810 adults who plan to buy tablets, most plan to buy iPads (61%), but 10% said in September - before even the developer's preview was available for Windows 8 - that they plan to buy a Windows 8 tablet, according to the Forrester report.
A survey from fall 2011 says that 13% of information workers in businesses with 20 or more people use tablets on the job. Of those, 79% say they influence which device is used. Half say they helped pay for the tablet out of their own pockets.
The runaway favourite tablet among adults is the iPad. In a September survey of 512 online adult tablet owners 73% had them. Second place went to HP with 6%. The survey excluded Nooks and Kindle Fires.
Overall, Forrester has jacked up its estimate of US tablet ownership in 2015 from 82.1 million to 105.1 million. That will jump to 112.5 million in 2016, the new projection says. Sales per year will grow from an actual of 10.8 million in 2010 to 60.3 million in 2016.
Some of the increase is because if low-cost small tablets evolved out of e-readers.