Shipments of notebook computers powered by quad-core microprocessors are set to nearly quadruple by 2016, according to industry analyst IHS iSuppli. The increase is an industry response to the competitive challenges posed by media tablets and smart phones as PC makers adopt the faster, more powerful processors to give their products an edge in the consumer marketplace.

“The increase in notebooks’ computational capabilities through the use of quad-core microprocessors will play a critical role in PC makers’ efforts to remain competitive amid the onslaught of media tablets and smart phones,” Peter Lin, senior analyst for compute platforms at IHS, said late last year. “While notebooks have greater computing power than either tablets or smart phones, they have lost considerable clout as consumers flock to the flashier gadgets, especially products like the iPad from Apple. Notebook sales have suffered as a result, alarming companies throughout the PC supply chain.”

IHS says shipments of notebook PCs configured with quad-core microprocessors will reach 179 million units by 2016, making up 59% of all notebooks.  That compares to the 48 million units shipped in 2012, when quad-core-equipped notebooks represented 22% of notebook PC shipments.

IHS adds that much of the growth in notebook quad-core microprocessors will be driven by increasing penetration among value and mainstream notebooks, defined as those priced less than $700 and $1,200, respectively. The quad-core technology will replace the prevailing dual-core technology.

Demand for more detailed, high-definition media and increased speed will fuel accelerated growth in quad-core processor technology as early as 2014, IHS said. The trend is likely to have the greatest effect on value notebooks, where quad-core technology is expected to represent 68% of the market by 2016 compared to just 13% last year. Quad-core processor penetration is expected to climb from 28% last year to 49% in 2016 among mainstream notebooks.

Though the IHS data is welcome news to makers and distributors of the latest quad-core technology, the overall PC market outlook remained weak at the end of 2012. The market, which has suffered amid burgeoning demand for tablets and other high-tech gadgets, was set to decline for the first time in 11 years in 2012, according to a separate report from IHS earlier last fall. The total PC market was expected to contract about 1% to 349 million units, down from 353 million units in 2011.