It’s no secret that tablets are slowly but surely replacing notebook PCs, but a new report suggests that even smaller slates will dominate the market within four years. According to new statistics from the IDC, tablets with screens sizes less than eight inches will comprise more than half of the tablet market by 2017.

The findings also suggest that tablet shipments in general will exceed those of laptops and notebooks in 2013, keeping with the downward trend that the PC market has seen in the past two years. While tablets are expected to replace portable computers this year, the IDC predicts that they will outpace the entire PC market (including desktops) by 2015. [See also: Top 10 Tablets]

That’s not to say that the PC will become completely extinct, but casual users are more likely to replace their personal PCs with slates.

“IDC continues to believe that PCs will have an important role in this new era of computing, especially for business users,” Ryan Reith, Program Manager for IDC’s Mobility Trackers, said in a statement. “But for many consumers, a tablet is a simple and elegant solution for core use cases that were previously addressed by the PC.”

Even now consumers aren’t looking for a tablet similar in screen size to their PC, according to the IDC. As interest shifts even further towards tablets over the next few years, smaller slates are expected to be in higher demand.

In 2013, tablets less than eight inches in size already account for 55 percent of the market. This number is expected to jump to 57 percent by 2017, as tablets between eight and 11 inches decrease their market share from 43 percent in 2013 to 37 percent in 2017.

This increased interest in smaller slates can largely be attributed to the success of 7-inch tablets such as Google's Nexus 7, Apple's iPad Mini and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD. Tablets larger than 11 inches only comprise two percent of the market today, but that number is also expected to grow to six percent in 2017.

The news that PC shipments are declining isn’t exactly new, but the IDC’s report suggests that tablet screen sizes are shrinking as smartphone displays are growing. Whispers from the Asian supply chain courtesy of DigiTimes hinted that manufacturers such as Sony, LG, and Huawei are prepping larger 5-inch smartphones for 2013. Additionally, handset makers such as Nokia, BlackBerry and HTC are rumored to be working on phablets of their own. 

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This story was originally written for LAPTOP and was republished with permission here. Copyright 2013 LAPTOP, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved.