A record 200 million tablets are expected to ship over the course of the year but as a number of regions such as the US and Europe reach the tipping point, where one in two consumers owns a device, it will be emerging markets that will be driving growth and even influencing specifications.
If ABI Research’s latest report into the state of the tablet market is accurate, then it means that tablet shipments will be up another 20 percent on 2013, which at 166 million devices, was itself a record year.
However, the tablet market is reaching maturity in a number of regions and manufacturers are going to have to look at other ways of differentiating their products in countries like the US, Japan and South Korea if they want to continue growing their market share.
Evidence of this can already be seen with companies like Samsung. In January it launched a ‘pro’ tablet with a 12.1-inch display to appeal to consumers that crave greater productivity but don’t want to buy a notebook.
At the same time rumors are swirling that Google is preparing to launch a similarly powerful 8.9-inch tablet in order to muscle into the premium tablet space currently occupied more or less solely by Apple.
For its part, Apple has relaunched the iPad 4, a tablet that was cutting-edge 16 months ago, as an entry-level 9-inch device and one that’s $100 cheaper than its current range-topping iPad Air.
The US currently accounts for over half of all tablet shipments globally but ABI Research believes that 2014 will be the year that shipment volumes to the region drop below 50 percent for the first time.
And this is because in rapidly emerging regions, such as Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, connectivity infrastructure is finally at a level where they’re ready to support consumer and business tablet use.
“One of the greatest opportunities this year is for development, manufacturing and marketing of tablets on a regional and even local level, which shakes up the vendor ecosystem of the past four years. Partnerships and deals struck this year will be key for the next few years of tablet adoption,” says senior practice director, Jeff Orr.