WASHINGTON DC: Sales of tablets such as the iPad are forecast to increase by 56% worldwide in 2012 to reach 127m units, according to a new study. 

A report from IHS iSuppli, a market research firm, indicated that most sales (59%) are for tablet computers with nine-inch screens.

But the fastest growth in the market is coming from smaller format seven-inch screens, which are expected to take 32% of the market in 2012, up from 26% in 2011.

According to IHS, sales of nine-inch models will grow 35% to reach 74.5m units in 2012, while those of seven-inch screen will almost double to 41.1m units.

The rest of the market is made up of eight-inch screens with a 9% share and five-inch screens with less than 1%.

Apple's iPad is the clear market leader in the nine-inch segment. The US firm also seems set to enter the seven-inch segment later this year.

This smaller screen market is currently dominated by tablets using Google's Android operating system, such as Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Amazon's Kindle Fire.

"Media tablets increasingly are becoming the biggest growth driver in the market for the small and medium display market," said IHS analyst Vinita Jakhanwal.

LG and Samsung, both Apple suppliers, currently lead the market for the LCD displays used in tablets with a 42% and 38% respective share of shipments.

But other LCD panel suppliers, including many Japanese firms, are starting to move into this area.

Manufacturing capacity in Japan given over to small and medium displays is expected to increase 164% in 2012, with businesses such as Sharp, Japan Display and Panasonic active in targeting the tablet market, the report added.

Data sourced from AFP; additional content by Warc staff