LONDON: Over 40% of the internet audience in Europe's largest markets will own a tablet in four years' time, a new study has argued.

In its report, eMarketer, the digital research firm, predicted that ownership would hit 19% among web users in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK by the end of 2012, compared with just 8.5% in 2011.

Looking ahead, this figure was anticipated to come in at 26.8% in 2013, and then continue on a similar annual growth trajectory over the years ahead, reaching 43.8% in 2016.

For this year, market penetration will be highest in the UK, at 21%, beating Italy and Spain, both on 20%, France on 18% and Germany on 17%.

In four years' time, scores on this measure are pegged to stand at 46% in each of Italy, Spain and the UK, versus 40% in France.

"Tablets tend to be shared among users in households. While a specific user may 'own' the device, it is likely that two to three other people in the household use it," the study added.

"EMarketer believes that sharing is less common in countries with higher income levels such as Germany and the UK. So while user penetration levels suggest Italy and Spain lead in tablet usage among internet users, ownership numbers are likely higher in the UK and Germany."

As a further example of the category's rapid growth, the tablet population in Italy will expand from 6.3m in 2012 to 9.8m in 2013, readings that were placed at 6m and 9.9m respectively for Spain.

Nearly 10m people in the UK and Germany will possess these gadgets by the end of this year, making the two countries the biggest markets in volume terms.

The two nations will retain such a position in 2016, with the UK home to 23.2m device owners, and Germany, on 23.8m.

"Compared to Italy and Spain, where tablets are more likely to be used outside the home, eMarketer believes tablet usage is more akin to PC usage in the UK and Germany, where the devices are often used at home," the study added.

"Similarly, while online video viewing via tablets is not as common in Europe compared to the US, due to less available content, users in Germany and the UK are still more likely to watch online videos on their devices than those in Spain, Italy and France."

Data sourced from eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff