Tablet shipments could start to slip as consumer markets get saturated

Apple still leads, but faces low-price competition globally, IDC says

Global tablet shipments are still on the rise, but are showing signs of "dramatic...significant slowing" as consumer markets such as the U.S. become saturated, IDC said Wednesday.

"It's becoming increasingly clear that markets such as the U.S. are reaching high levels of consumer saturation and while emerging markets continue to show strong growth, this has not been able to sustain the dramatic worldwide growth rates of years past," said Tom Mainelli, an IDC analyst.

Recent trends "point to a more challenging environment for tablets in 2014 and beyond," he added.

IDC said there were 76.9 million tablets shipped in the fourth quarter of 2013, up 62% over the third quarter but just 28% higher than the fourth quarter of 2012. The rate of growth from the fourth quarter of 2011 to fourth quarter 2012 was actually 87%, well ahead of the 28% figure and the reason that Mainelli described a tablet market slowdown. "While the market's growth rates remain impressive, they're down dramatically," IDC said in a statement.

With so many tablet makers competing for the same dollars, the consumer tablet market will be soft, although purchases by schools and businesses will accelerate, IDC said.

Apple led in the fourth quarter, shipping a record 26 million tablets, up from 14.1 million in the third quarter and higher than the 22.9 million it sold in the last quarter of 2012. IDC noted that its year-over-year growth was "well below the industry average" and indicate the challenges Apple faces from many competitors and in markets outside of the U.S. and other developed countries.

Apple had 33.8% of the tablet market in the fourth quarter, down from 38% a year earlier. Samsung was in second place, grabbing 18.8% of the market, up from 13% at the end of 2012. Amazon had a 7.6% share of the market in the final quarter of 2013, Asus had 5.1% and Lenovo 4.4%.

Lenovo benefited from low-priced tablets sold in emerging markets. It has just 1.3% of the tablet market in the last quarter of 2012.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is

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