In a sign that consumers worldwide are increasingly turning to tablet devices for their computing needs, high-profile analyst firm IDC has raised its forecast for tablet shipments this year by 9 percent, estimating that 117.1 million units will be shipped.

The summer has been a busy one for the tablet industry, with Google’s Nexus 7 making a promising start to life, and that’s reflected in the significantly increased prediction. For comparison, the firm’s June figure of 107.4 million was itself a 1.2 percent increase on the previous quarter.

Looking further ahead, IDC forecasts that total tablet shipments in 2013 will reach 165.9 million (up from June’s 142.8 million figure) and by 2016 it forecasts 261.4 million units, as opposed to 222.1 million.

IDC is optimistic that, despite economic concerns across the world, consumers are snapping up tablet devices “in record numbers”, which in turn is stimulating increased shipments to meet retail demands.

Apple’s iPad is the device that essentially launched the genre single-handedly and its supreme brand recognition and market leadership is expected to continue this year – that’s unlikely to surprise anyone.

Research director Tom Mainelli does believe, however, that “there is room in the market for others to find success.” The research firm has begun listing predicted shipments from Windows-based tablets — in response to its upcoming Surface devices — and Mainelli believes that both Android and Microsoft-powered devices give breadth of choice to the consumer market.

The iPad accounted for 57.2 percent of shipments in 2011, and IDC predicts that the figure will grow to 59.9 percent this year. Android, by contrast, is affected by new market entrants and IDC pegs it at a 35.3 percent share, down from 38.9 percent a year previous.

IDC predicts the iPad’s share will remain solid and grow to pass 60 percent in 2013, in contrast to in contrast to a projected 32.7 percent for Android. The Apple tablet is, however, tipped to recede slightly and account for 58.1 percent in 2016, at which time Android is estimated at 30.5 percent and Windows 10.9 percent.

Those dates are a considerable way off and, given the likelihood of device launches and possible new entrants (Microsoft is launching its own branded devices, of course) that could take place, it remains to be seen how things will play out.

Image via Flickr / Blakespot