The boom times of the tablet market appear to be leveling off. That's the word from researcher IDC in its Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, released Thursday. In 2013, sales growth of tablets and so-called 2-in-1 or convertible devices soared by 51.6 percent from the prior year. But sales for the year to date tapered off considerably, and are on track to increase from last year's numbers by just 19.4 percent, the researcher reported.
What's more, actual quarterly sales figures caused IDC to adjust its earlier 2014 forecast of 260.9 million units downward by 3.6 percent, to about 251.5 million units. In the report, IDC says that the change is due largely to a decrease in consumer demand and an installed base in mature markets that's near a saturation point. "In mature markets, where many buyers have purchased higher-end products from market leaders, consumers are deciding that their current tablets are good enough for the way they use them," said Tom Mainelli, IDC's program vice president for devices and displays, in a statement. "Few are feeling compelled to upgrade the same way they did in years past, and that's having an impact on growth rates."
Prices, too, are beginning to fall. Paradoxically, thanks to the growth of higher-priced commercial products and a migration toward those units and away from value-priced models. "After years of strong growth, we expect the white-box tablet market to slow in 2014 as consumers move to higher-end devices that work better and last longer," said Mainelli. In 2012, the average selling price of a tablet, or 2-in-1, fell by 18.3 percent from the prior year, and in 2013 dropped by another 14.6 percent. But the market may be near the bottom as the forecaster expects prices in 2014 to fall by just 3.6 percent.
There's also a change afoot in terms of the mix of consumer and commercial sales. Actual numbers from 2013 showed that 89 percent of tablet devices went to consumers, while just 11 percent were destined for the enterprise. But the forecaster expects to see a 3 percent drop in consumer sales in 2014 and a corresponding increase on the commercial side. And by 2018, consumers are expected to represent 82 percent of worldwide sales, while 18 percent will be sold to companies.
Much of the growth in commercial tablet sales is expected to be in vertical markets across all SMB, enterprise, and in education spaces. According to Jitesh Ubrani, an IDC research analyst for the Worldwide Tablet Tracker report, growth in commercial markets will represent a boost to Microsoft Windows. "The choice of operating system will be a key differentiating factor when it comes to success in the commercial segment," he said. "Though Android and iOS will remain dominant, we expect Windows-based devices to capture more than a quarter of the market as its benefits become apparent, thanks to a growing adoption of 2-in-1s."
PUBLISHED MARCH 6, 2014