) - The rise of the tablet continues. This year's Black Friday is expected to be the launch pad for tablets, such as


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Kindle Fire

, to overtake notebook shipments for the first time in North America, according to the latest figures from

NPD DisplaySearch


The research firm estimates that 21.5 million tablets will be shipped in North America during the fourth quarter, compared to 14.6 million notebooks and mini-notebooks. In 2013, tablet shipments in North America are forecast to exceed notebooks on an annual basis for the first time, with 80 million tablets versus 63.8 million notebooks, NPD said.

Globally, however, tablets aren't expected to out-ship notebooks until 2015, when 275.9 million tablets are forecast to ship, compared to 270 million notebooks.

In a

blog post

, NPD DisplaySearch senior analyst Richard Shim cited a number of factors for the booming popularity of tablets. These include the already high penetration of PCs within U.S. households (more than 70%), which makes new PC purchases less necessary. The analyst also pointed to shifting consumer preference towards tablets in the U.S., and increasing efforts in the space from the likes of Amazon and Google.

"Black Friday and the ensuing holiday shopping season is expected to enhance an already prime opportunity for U.S. tablet adoption," wrote Shim, pointing to price cuts to already-declining Average Selling Prices (ASPs) on tablets. "The $199 price point has increasingly become the target to match or beat with the introductions of Google's $199 Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire 7."

Shim also cites the increasing number of tablet form factors available to consumers, such as Apple's 7.9-inch

iPad Mini



10.1-inch Galaxy Note and


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10.6-inch Surface tablet.

Apple has traditionally dominated the tablet market, although tech research firm


recently noted some market share slippage in the third quarter. With an uncertain macroeconomic environment and consumers delaying their purchases ahead of the iPad Mini launch, Apple's share slipped from 65.5% in the second quarter to 50.4% in the third quarter, IDC said.

Shipments of Android-based tablets surged in the third quarter, led by Samsung and Amazon, which grew their share from 9.6% and 5%, respectively, in the second quarter, to 18.4% and 9%.

True to form, Apple's keeping details of its Black Friday sale event under wraps, although the company's ad has prompted


that the iPad could be involved.

Last year, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company offered


on the iPad 2, the iMac, iPods, and MacBooks.

Apple shares crept up 0.21% to $562.11 in afternoon action on Wednesday.


Written by James Rogers in New York


Follow @jamesjrogers

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