Worldwide Tablet Shipments Could Slow To Single Digit Growth By 2017 [Report]

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International Data Corporation (IDC) released it’s quarterly report on worldwide tablet shipments Tuesday. The report states that the data tracking agency has lowered its expected forecast for growth in the tablet sector, which includes Android, iOS, and Windows tablets.

Tablet shipments are now expected to reach 221.3 million units this year, which is down from the agency’s earlier forecast of 227.4 million units. This new forecast is still 53.5 percent higher than last year’s unit shipment levels, however.

The group predicts, based on current 2013 and historical data, that the shipment growth of tablets worldwide will slow to 22.2 percent year over year in 2014, with a slow down in to the single percentage digits by 2017. IDC predicts that annual shipments of tablets in 2017 will peak at 386.3 million units, rather than the previously forecast 407 million units.

The key factor here in the report seems to be the addition of small tablets into the mix. While the current tablet market skews in favor of the smaller tablet sizes like the iPad mini, the data group thinks that the rise of smartphones with larger screens could well offset consumer preference for these devices, making a possible return to large screens in the coming years a reality. The hugely successful release of the iPad Air may itself point to an ongoing market transition back to larger screens, along with the devices higher price tags.

“In some markets consumers are already making the choice to buy a large smartphone rather than buying a small tablet, and as a result we’ve lowered our long-term forecast,” said tablet research director Tom Mainelli. “Meanwhile, in mature markets like the U.S. where tablets have been shipping in large volumes since 2010 and are already well established, we’re less concerned about big phones cannibalizing shipments and more worried about market saturation.”

The market share for each flavor of tablet is also revealed in the report, with Android leading current 2012 numbers with 52 percent, and iOS taking a smaller 45.6 percent. Windows tablet devices have a minuscule market share here, with just 0.9 percent. The firm predicts that Android tablets will surge ahead to 60.8 percent by the end of 2013, and fall a bit back to 58.8 percent by 2017, while iOS tablet market share is predicted to drop continuously to 35 percent in 2013 and 30.6 percent in 2017.

Obviously, this is all speculation based on current trends, without factoring in any new innovation in the marketplace either in tablet devices or those that may disruptively replace them. Overall, though, it looks like the tablet market is maturing, may continue to favor Android tablets in terms of numbers of devices sold, and will continue to sell well for the foreseeable future.

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