Tablet shipments in the West are expected to be disappointing this year

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There are likely to be fewer tablets shipped this year than previously expected, according to latest estimates. Research firm IDC lowered its tablet projections on Friday for the full year down to 233 million shipments. That’s a 6.5 percent year-over-year growth rate, compared to the 12.1 percent growth rate previously expected. While Western markets are seeing flat growth for 2014, the rest of the world — including emerging and developing markets, will see a 12 percent growth. That’s because smaller tablets in the less-than-8-inches size are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to a lower average selling point.

Tablet growth in the North American and European markets will be flat this year, according to IDC. The group revised its estimates after what it called a “second quarter of softer than expected demand.” The tablet market, which IDC counts as tablets and 2-in-1 devices, will grow by a slim 6.5 percent globally. In 2014, around 233 million tablets and 2-in-1 devices will be sold, according to the group. A number of things emerge from the above: Tablet sales won’t catch PC sales for a lenghty period of time. Yearly PC sales have roughly stabilized around the 300 million unit level, meaning that tablet sales will likely have to grow by a large percentage to meet PC sales, which, as the new numbers indicate, will not be easy. Another point of context: Quarterly smartphone sales are substantially larger than yearly tablet sales, a gap that is increasing. Tablets, regardless of what was thought, are the smallest of the PC, tablet, and smartphone troika. And as only smartphones of the group are growing quickly, we shouldn’t expect the internal ranking order to change much. Could tablet sales begin to decline in mature markets? Negative growth in mature tablet markets would shift all growth pressure to emerging markets. It isn’t clear if those other areas could grow enough to expand net tablet volume in that context.

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