The PC may be dying, but tablet growth is slowing as consumer saturation sets in

The PC may be dying, but tablet growth is slowing as consumer saturation sets in

Summary: If you thought the tablet was the savior to the ailing PC market, we may need a better alternative if the latest tablet growth forecasts are to be believed.

TOPICS: Tablets
(Image: CNET)

And there we were thinking the tablet uprising might replace the clunky traditional desktop.

While the chances of a PC market resurgence are slim, latest IDC figures released Wednesday suggest the tablet market may not be as healthy as first thought.

Preliminary figures suggest worldwide tablet shipments grew to 76.9 million units during the fourth calendar quarter of 2014, representing a 62 percent growth quarter-over-quarter and 28 percent growth year-over-year.

Compared that to the growth figures released this time a year ago — 87.1 percent from 2012 — and it's clear that's a significant slowing of the overall market.

By comparison, the PC market saw worldwide shipments of 82.2 million units during the fourth quarter, but contracted by 5.6 percent year-over-year.

For the full 2013 calendar year, worldwide tablet shipments totaled 217 million units, a 50 percent growth on the full 2012 calendar year of 144 million shipments. 

PC shipments may still be ahead of tablet shipments, the rate at which PC shipments are declining and tablet shipment growth is slowing, tablets may soon overtake PCs in shipments but may not stem the decline altogether.

IDC's Tom Mainelli said in remarks: "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 enough to sustain the dramatic worldwide growth rates of years past."

"We expect commercial purchases of tablets to continue to accelerate in mature markets, but softness in the consumer segment—brought about by high penetration rates and increased competition for the consumer dollar—point to a more challenging environment for tablets in 2014 and beyond," he added.

Top five tablet vendors, shipments (million), and market Share, Q4 2013 (Table: IDC)

Not surprisingly, thanks to the iPad's success, Apple led the fourth quarter with 26 million shipments with a year-over-year growth of more than 13 percent. But its share declined thanks to an uptick in Samsung tablets.

Samsung came in second with 14.5 million shipments — with about half of Apple's total shipments — rising from 13 percent market share to close to 19 percent year-over-year.

Amazon saw a year-over-year decline in tablet shipments bringing in 7.6 percent of the share, while Asus remained flat with just 5 percent.

Lenovo, which has been ramping up its tablet efforts in recent quarters, saw a spike in fourth-quarter shipments, rising by more than 300 percent in year-over-year growth.

On Lenovo's massive tablet share growth, IDC's Jitesh Ubrani said Lenovo's access to Chinese whitebox manufacturing infrastructure helped raise its low-priced tablet profile. 

"The company's strength in emerging markets, and its increased market share in adjoining markets such as PCs and smartphones, makes it well positioned to see additional tablet gains in 2014," he added.

Exactly where the tablet goes from here remains unclear. Market saturation shows extreme prior growth. Unless tablet makers can maintain that momentum and keep refreshing models to ensure a line of succession, upgrades, and replacements, the entire tablet market could begin to topple in a not-too-dissimilar way to the PC market.

Topic: Tablets

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  • Maturity may help Windows tablets...

    As the market matures, consumers may start to look for the value proposition offered by Windows tablets--devices that can consume & produce. Or, that's Microsoft's hope.
    • Maturity will help

      People are over thinking the PC / Mobile dilemma too much. They are 2 separate markets. I always liked the term "PC+ Era" because it accurately describes the fact that most people have both a PC plus another mobile device, especially if they work in an office. PC growth slowed because people needed to buy a mobile device to catch up. Now most people have both PC and Mobile devices, so the two separate markets will likely grow moderately in the future, but neither will die.
      Sean Foley
      • I accept the "Post PC" language

        although both it and PC+ are OK. But I think "Post PC" does accurately reflect the fact that for many, perhaps even most, the center of their computing world has moved to the phone from the PC. Not everyone, to be sure, and certainly not for folks over, say, 40.

        But I would say with the young, their phone is their main computer now.
        • Not really...

          Just because use has slowed, doesn't mean it's stopped. PC sales are down only about 10%. Far from "death" as journalists love to post to get readers by.
    • "value proposition" ?

      Windows tablets aren't cheap.
      • Cheap is subjective

        A Dell Venue 8 Pro can be had, brand new, for $200. I suppose they need to get down to half that to really be considered cheap. But wait 6 mo. and they will be.
        x I'm tc
      • No tablet worth your money is cheap.

        Android is not good in the "cheap" market. Didn't you see the Amazon sales above? It's the only negative growth. That's because their cheap tablets are not that great after a while. You can still spend up to and over $900 on an Apple tablet too, so the $300 Windows tablets are looking really really good these days...
    • Windows 8 tablets have already began to take off

      People are already starting to buy Windows 8 tablets, as indicated by Intel's numbers.

      The problem is that these are low margin Windows 8 devices, which lead to flat overall YOY revenue growth for Intel in the last quarter, and a small decline in Windows licensing revenue in the last quarter as well. There was however an actual 10% increase YOY in Windows 8 devices shipped in the last quarter. So there has been an actual volume recovery in PC sales due to Windows 8 tablets / touch PCs. (IDC / Gartner's figures seem to only track older, dying PC form factors, and hence their figures are misleading.)
      P. Douglas
  • Worldwide tablet sales

    are slightly more than QUARTER sales for PCs.

    All hail the post PC world, right?
    Michael Alan Goff
    • If tablets sales are slowing

      Is this a sure sign that we've entered the "Post-Tablet Era"?
      • growth is slowing

        slowing growth =/= slowing sales
      • We were never in the "tablet era"

        If anything, we've been in the "mobile era" for a while now, and yes, you can be sure it will have a successor.
      • I should have put

        a smiley face at the end of my comment.
    • PC all day

      Funny how we have been commenting about the Post_PC era for the past 7 years, on our PC's. The PC is more resilient then most tech journalist weenies realize (like Zack).
      Sean Foley
      • You mean MBR?

        He wrote few books on Post-PC already and cries here whenever someone comments about his Post-PC books on Amazon.
        Ram U
    • Worldwide tablet sales are slightly more than QUARTER sales for PCs.

      And smartphones sales are better than DOUBLE pc sales. And they run the same OS as the tablets. Compare Windows sales with Android sales, and Windows is becoming less significant.
      Info Dave
      • And?

        Seriously, a very slim minority is getting a smartphone to do all of their computing. I don't even understand this concept of throwing up a market share where we pit mobile and desktop against each other. I have a Surface RT, Windows Phone, Android Phone, iPad, and Mac that sometimes runs Windows as well as running a lot of OS X.

        So I guess I count as an RT user, Windows 8.1 user, OS X user, WP user, Android user, and an iOS user. Which one matters? I don't know, I like something from each of them.
        Michael Alan Goff
        • And...

          You are in the minority, Michael, and you know it. My brother, who is a tech novice, refers to his phone as a 'computer that also makes phone calls.' He has a better understanding of the dynamics than you do.
          Info Dave
          • Oh yes, I'm in the minority

            I can't think of a single person I know that has replaced their laptop with their smartphone.

            It's not like I'm king of the tech crowd either.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • Majority?

            Dave, if you're ability to figure this stuff out is the majority, I'm glad I'm not in it either.