More people may be using ink supplies to print documents directly from tablets in the coming years, as it has been predicted the devices will supplant PCs as the primary computing equipment for many people.

This is according to a study by Forrester Research, which estimated global sales of the items will grow from 56 million in 2011 to 375 million in 2016.

By that year, the organisation forecast there will be 760 million tablet devices in use around the world, with the gadgets being in both domestic and commercial environments.

Analyst at the group Frank Gillett explained that while tablet PCs are not the most powerful computing gadgets on the market, they are the most convenient.

Their long battery life and lightweight, slim design makes them "very handy for carrying around and using frequently, casually and intermittently even where there isn't a flat surface or a chair on which to use a laptop", the expert said.

He added they are especially good at sharing content among groups, as there are no barriers such as a keyboard in the way and passing a tablet around like a piece of paper is more natural than spinning a laptop to share what is on the screen.

As a result of this, Mr Gillett predicted the technology landscape will look very different in five years' time, with Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle Fire making a large impact on the market, while many first-time computer users will start their experiences with a tablet.

However, he did note while tablets will start to cannibalise sales of laptop devices, desktop PCs will not disappear completely as many individuals – particularly those working with large amounts of information or engaging in creative activities – will still need the higher processing power larger units can provide.

The survey comes as Apple released its financial results for the first quarter of 2012, which revealed the firm sold 11.8 million iPads during the three-month period, a 151 per cent increase year-on-year.