Tablet sales are expected to slow to just 14% growth in 2014, according to new forecasts from telecom analysts CCS Insight. Following extraordinary year-on-year growth of 79% in 2012 and 71% in 2013, CCS Insights predicts that sales in Western Europe are going backwards by 6%.
Apple shipped the first iPad in 2010 and by the end of 2013 there were almost 390 million tablets in use around the world. The analyst group's latest global tablet forecast believes the reduced tablet sales is due to slowdown in developed markets and delayed adoption in emerging markets.
Marina Koytcheva, director of Forecasting at CCS Insight, said that rapid growth has proved unsustainable. 'After the fastest adoption ever seen for a technology device, tablet makers now face a nasty sting in the tail. Replacement rates are lagging those seen for smartphones, with consumers holding onto their tablets for three years or more.' CCS Insight attributes the longer replacement cycle to robust design, solid state disks, durable batteries and regular software updates.
'With households seeing no necessity to replace their current tablets (or smartphones) there could be an uptick in replacement purchases of ageing PCs and notebooks,' said Koytcheva. 'In some cases a household gadget budget might now be spent on new products such as the latest crop of wearable devices, including smartwatches and fitness bands. These are ideally suited to the lucrative fourth-quarter gifting market.'
Around one in every four tablets sold has been in emerging markets, but adoption lags significantly behind advanced Western markets. CCS Insight attributes this to the markets are still in the process of mass transition from feature phones to smartphones with consumers being excited about getting their first smart devices.
'Affordability constraints mean that it will be another couple of years before we start seeing strong uptake of tablets in countries like China and India where widespread ownership of both a smartphone and tablet is currently a step too far,' said Koytcheva.
However, CCS Insight predicts a new chapter of growth will re-emerge in the coming years. Replacement sales will start in developed markets and the first wave of growth will commence in emerging markets.
Global sales expected to reach 562 million units in 2018, representing a market value of $99 billion.