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Tablet Growth Slows as iPad Sees Below-Average Performance

Tablet manufacturers are beginning to face a more difficult environment domestically. Growth in tablet sales, particularly among end users, has slowed dramatically. According to a new report from market research firm IDC, institutional purchasing, rather than consumer demand, seems to be the main force that's continuing to push tablet adoption.

"It's becoming increasingly clear that markets such as the [United States] 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," said Tom Mainelli, IDC research director, Tablets, in a prepared statement. "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."

In the fourth quarter, tablet sales grew 28.2 percent year over year, down significantly from a growth rate of 87.1 percent the year before.

Apple, in particular, saw growth in sales of iPads slow. Apple shipped 26 million iPads in Q4 2013, up just 13.5 percent from Q4 2012 — a growth rate of less than half the industry average. Nevertheless, Apple remained, by far, the largest tablet producer in the quarter, with 33.8 percent of the overall tablet share worldwide (a decline of 4.4 points from the same period last year).

No. 2 Samsung, meanwhile, saw 85.9 percent growth in the fourth quarter, shipping 14.5 million Android-based tablets and capturing 18.8 percent of the overall market (up 5.8 points from Q4 2012).

No. 3 Amazon was the only top-5 manufacturer to see an actual decline in unit shipments for the quarter. Its Kindle tablets dipped 1.8 percent, hitting 5.8 million units and capturing 7.6 percent of the market.

Asus came in fourth, with 3.9 million units, up 25.8 percent from the previous fourth quarter, capturing 5.1 percent of the market (even with last year's market share).

Lenovo rounded out the top 5 on shipments of 3.4 million units (4.4 percent of the market), representing year-over-year growth of 325 percent. "Lenovo's access to the Chinese whitebox manufacturing infrastructure has helped it drive more low-priced tablet products into the market, growing its share from just 1.3 percent in the same quarter last year," said Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst, Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. "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."

According to IDC, a total of 217.1 million tablets shipped worldwide in the full calendar year 2013, representing growth of 50.6 percent year over year.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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