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Signs Show Tablet Sales are Slowing Down

Introduction of the iPad Air and iPad Mini boosted Apple's tablet sales.
Courtesy of Apple

Normally, any business would love to experience 62.4 percent growth in sales but when you’re the hot tablet computer industry, such growth in fourth quarter 2013 sales is troubling.

Worldwide tablet sales reached 76.9 million units in the last three months of last year, which is 62.4 percent more than in the third quarter of 2013, according to research from IDC. Again, not too shabby, unless you compare it to the 87.1 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2012 versus the fourth quarter of 2011.

The problem? Many people who want a tablet already have one.

"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," said Tom Mainelli, research director of tablets research at IDC.

For all of 2013, the tablet unit sales growth rate was 50.6 percent, versus 2012.

Apple was the biggest tablet vendor in the fourth quarter, shipping 26 million units in the fourth quarter, up from 14.1 million units in the previous quarter and 22.9 million units in the year ago quarter. The fourth quarter of 2013 was marked by the introduction of the Apple iPad Air and a new iPad Mini on Oct. 22. New iPad sales put Apple’s share of the tablet market at 33.8 percent, followed by Samsung with 18.8 percent, Amazon’s Kindle at 7.6 percent, Asus 5.1 percent and Lenovo’s share at 4.4 percent.

While tablet sales are relatively strong, IDC’s Mainelli says growth rates may continue to slow as tablets become more common.

"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 stated.