Mobile Computing | Research

Outlook for Tablets Lowered Even as Education Segment Helps Propel Growth

Tablets are facing strong competition from an unexpected segment of the computing industry: smart phones. Just as tablets have chipped away at PCs in recent years, in coming years larger smart phones will cut into some of the growth previously forecast for the tablet market, according to a new report.

According to the latest Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker from market research firm IDC, tablet shipments will continue to grow worldwide, but that growth will be slightly lower than earlier expected. However, growth will be strengthened in areas like education, where investments in tablets are surging.

According to IDC, in 2013, worldwide tablet shipments will reach 227.4 million units, representing growth of 57.7 percent over 2012's shipments. But that figure is about 2 million lower than previously forecast. That's owing in part to slower growth in mature markets like North America and Western Europe.

"Market saturation, increased adoption of smartphones with 5-inch and greater screens, and the eventual growth of the wearable category will impact tablet growth in all regions, but are likely to impact mature regions first," according to IDC. "As a result, IDC now expects the mature market (comprised of North America, Western Europe, and Japan) to shrink from 60.8 percent of the worldwide market in 2012 to 49 percent by 2017. As a result, emerging markets (comprised broadly of Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan), Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) will grow from 39.2 percent in 2012 to 51 percent in 2017."

Growth will continue at least through 2017, when total unit shipments are forecast to reach 407 million worldwide.

"A lower than anticipated second quarter, hampered by a lack of major product announcements, means the second half of the year now becomes even more critical for a tablet market that has traditionally seen its highest shipment volume occur during the holiday season," said Tom Mainelli, IDC research director, tablets, in a prepared statement. "We expect average selling prices to continue to compress as more mainstream vendors utilize low-cost components to better compete with the whitebox tablet vendors that continue to enjoy widespread traction in the market despite typically offering lower-quality products and poorer customer experiences."

According to IDC, a secondary trends is emerging as well: the growth of tablets driven by non-consumer segments like education and retail. In 2012, these segments accounted for 10 percent of all tablet unit shipments. In 2013, they will account for 13 percent. And by 2017, they will account for one-fifth of all tablet purchases. In whole numbers, those figures represent about 14.2 million units in 2012, 29.6 million in 2013, and 81.4 million in 2017.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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