What accounts for fourth-quarter slowdown? In short, a maturing tablet market.
"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," stated Tom Mainelli, research director for tablets at IDC.
The firm has already projected growth of tablet shipments to slow to 22% this year.
Among manufacturers, iPad-maker Apple again led the way with sales of 26 million tablets, but the company continues to see Samsung and other rivals chip away at its once dominant position in the market. Apple’s share in the quarter slipped to 33.8% from 38.2% a year ago, while Samsung increased its share to 18.9% from 13%.
No. 3 tablet maker Amazon saw its share slip to 7.6% from 9.9% a year ago, while Asus was flat at 5.1%, and China-based Lenovo jumped to 4.4% from 1.3% share. "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,” stated Jitesh Ubrani, an IDC analyst tracking the tablet market.
In the U.S. a recent Pew Research Center survey estimated tablet adoption had increased to 42% in January from 32% in January. While IDC’s Mainelli expects tablet purchases by businesses to pick up this year, softness in the consumer market—resulting from rising penetration rates and more competition for the consumer dollar—will make 2014 a tougher year for tablet sellers.