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The tablet-computer revolution will continue on a path similar to the one taken by smartphones and music players, with sales more than doubling this year as a result of a refresh cycle that’s shorter than seen with personal computers, according to a recent report by Forrester.

Refresh cycles, a term taken from the personal-computer industry, indicate the frequency with which consumers or businesses replace a given piece of equipment. While PCs are typically replaced every three years,  new smartphones and other mobile devices are purchased more frequently — and it looks like tablets are following a similar pattern.

The number of tablet computer owners will grow to about 26 million in 2011, and to 82 million by 2015, according to the report. Sales will rise 134 percent to 24.1 million tablet computers in 2011, and will level off at around 40 million tablets sold each year through 2015. The report suggests that most tablet computers sold through 2012 will be Apple iPads.

A recent survey by Harris Interactive suggests 1 in 5 Americans will own a tablet computer by 2014 — which helps back up the report by Forrester. One of the largest areas for growth in that is the enterprise tablet computer space — the Harris Interactive survey indicates that about a third of tablet owners will use their tablet computers for work and collaboration.

Apple has a huge foothold in both the consumer and the enterprise tablet computer space. About half of the largest companies in the world on the Fortune 100 list have begun either testing or full-out using the iPad for their corporate needsMore than 10 percent of all mobile devices activated for enterprise purposes, outside of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices, were iPads, according to a recent report by Good Technology.

The Forrester report suggests that the refresh cycle for tablet computers will be much higher than regular PCs and notebook computers. Apple’s iPad is the prototypical case. The iPad 2 is expected to be announced later in January and, if sales of the iPhone 4 are a good indicator, most current iPad owners will flock to the new device.

But while Apple is a leader in that market, there are a number of other tablets rising up to challenge it. That includes one made by Research in Motion, whose BlackBerry smartphone is famous for its enterprise capabilities. And expect to see lots of new tablets aimed at stealing the limelight from Apple’s iPad at the Consumer Electronics Show over the next several days.

Keep an eye on VentureBeat’s coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show for the latest information on the newest tablet computers.

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