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Growth in worldwide tablet market may be slowing

Mobility

Could the tablet market be nearing saturation? It’s certainly beginning to slow down, according to a new forecast from research firm IDC Corp.

According to IDC’s latest forecast of the worldwide tablet, growth for 2014 is expecting to hit 7.2 per cent, year over year. Not bad, but a significant deceleration from the 52.5 per cent growth the tablet market experienced in 2013. Factors cited for the slowdown include a decline in Apple iPad shipments and lengthening lifecycles for tablets.

“The tablet market continues to be impacted by a few major trends happening in relevant markets,” said Ryan Reith, program director with IDC’s worldwide quarterly mobile device trackers, in a statement. “In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every two to three years. What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than three years and in some instances more than four years. We believe the two major drivers for longer than expected tablet lifecycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks.”

Within the tablet market, vendors have been pushing innovation in the detachable category, with new models hitting the market, offering thinner options and lower prices. Still, this category will account for just four per cent of total tablet shipments in 2014, driven at least in part by hesistancy around the Windows 8 OS which most of these 2-in-1 tablets run.

That’s backed-up by the market share forecast. IDC projects Android as the runaway leader with 67.7 per cent of the market in 2014, up 16 per cent. Apple’s iOS is second at 27.5 per cent, down 12.7 per cent, and Windows is growing its small market share, growing by 67.3 per cent to still capture just 4.6 per cent of the market. By 2018 IDC doesn’t project major market share change, forecasting Android at 64 per cent, iOS with 24.5 per cent and Windows with 11.4 per cent.

“We need to look at how the tablet ecosystem is answering these challenges, and right now we see a lot of pressure on tablet prices and an influx of entry-level products, which ultimately serves Android really well,” said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director for tablets at IDC, in a statement. “But we also see tablet manufacturers trying to offset this price pressure by focusing on larger screens and cellular-enabled tablets. The next six months should be really interesting.”

Factors that could impact the forecast include industry reaction to Windows 10 and Google’s plans vis a vis Android and Chrome OS.