Last year, the tablet PC market experienced previously unprecedented growth during the holiday season and on a worldwide scale, sales increased by an incredible 256% throughout the course of 2011. In the United States alone, tablet device ownership amongst adults increased from 10% to 19% in a month-long period between December 2011 and January 2012. While some predicted that the “tablet trend” would quickly fade, the market has remained strong throughout this year and is expected to skyrocket in the fourth quarter of this year with the debut of a new generation of tablet PCs.

Apple’s iPad 2, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7 have dominated the tablet market over the past year, but a new line of smaller, slimmer and less expensive tablets hitting stores this holiday season will undoubtedly re-ignite consumer interest in mobile computing. These “mini tablets” provide the same functionality as their larger predecessors, in a more compact form factor. Apple’s newest entry into the mobile computing arena, the iPad Mini, made its much-anticipated debut in virtually all of the company’s global markets on November 2nd with a starting price point of $329 for the 16 GB version. Amazon has also developed a “next generation” tablet, the Kindle Fire HD. While the new Fire HD starts at $199, a price point intended to draw consumers away from its more costly Apple competitor; the Fire’s current market share stands at only 9% compared to Apple’s 50.4%.

This year, the most formidable new entry into the tablet computer market is Microsoft. With the long-awaited debut of the new Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft premiered the Surface on October 26th. This full-size (10”) tablet features a full keyboard as the device’s screen cover and is the first on the market to offer such functionality. Additionally, the Surface has received much acclaim since it first became available and Microsoft’s $1 billion advertising campaign centered on the tablet and Windows 8 will maximize the exposure of the brand’s newest offerings this season.

Currently, 174 million Internet users worldwide utilize mobile devices as their primary point of connectivity. That figure is expected to reach 265 million by 2016 and for the first time ever, mobile usage will surpass PCs and laptops. This anticipated shift has led manufacturers to place an increased focus on mobile and tablet development and the growth of the marketplace following Q4 2012 will demonstrate the real staying power of mobile computing.

Going forward, consumers will play the most pivotal role in the inevitable success of the tablet PC industry and the number of units sold this holiday shopping season will almost certainly surpass last year’s staggering figure of 66 million. With multi-billion dollar global marketing and advertising strategies in place and tech business mainstays such as Apple, Microsoft and Amazon battling for valuable mobile market share, the 2012 holiday shopping season will undoubtedly be driven by a new generation of tablet devices.

Kenneth Wisnefski is an online marketing expert with a focus on mobile and social media. Additionally, Wisnefski is founder and CEO of WebiMax, a full service online marketing agency based in Mount Laurel, NJ. Wisnefski founded WebiMax in 2008 and the firm is one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States, ranking No. 37 overall on the 2012 Inc. 500 list. Visit http://www.kenwisnefski.com/ or http://www.webimax.com/ for more information.