Tablet market seen surging to $49 billion by 2015

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - The global tablet computer market, born last year with Apple's iPad, will grow to a $49-billion business by 2015, research firm Strategy Analytics said.

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The tablet computer market will become the third largest consumer electronics sector, after televisions and personal computers, the research firm said, forecasting 149 million units will be sold in 2015, growing eightfold from 2010.

"Tablets are a high-value casual-computing segment that is creating huge growth opportunities for major brands, such as Apple and Samsung," said analyst Neil Mawston.

Estimates on market growth vary widely -- the view is still only half of Gartner's 294 million unit forecast for 2015, issued last week.

Apple's iPad is expected to dominate the market for years, with Samsung Electronics a distant second.

Apple is estimated to have sold about 1 million iPad 2s in the first weekend of its U.S. launch last month. Samsung may have sold a similar number of its Galaxy Tabs in the past three months and sales growth is expected to lag.

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On Monday Apple sued Samsung for copying its products in its tablets and smartphones using the Galaxy brand.

(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Louise Heavens)