Like the mobile phone market which was once the cash cow of technology firms, the tablet market is showing signs of slowing down. A report from research firm IDC, released on Wednesday, forecast tablet sales to reach 221.2 million units for 2013.
REUTERS/Robert Galbraith Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook holds up the new iPad Air during an Apple event in San Francisco, California Oct. 22, 2013.
While it represents a 53.5 per cent growth from 2012 sales figure, the projection is lower than IDC's last forecast of 227 million tablets, an indicator that the market is starting to get saturated of tablet computers.
Tablet makers are forecast to still enjoy a 22.2 per cent boost in their sales in 2013 to 270.5 million units, but by 2017, the growth would be down to only single digit.
Tom Mainelli, IDC analyst, explained the anticipated slow down in tablet sales to competition in some markets from phablets, which is the size of handheld devices between the smartphone and the tablet.
In mature tech markets such as the US, the target of device manufacturers for large sales volume since 2010, the more affordable phablets may not pose a competition, but the issue is market saturation, he said.
However, Mr Mainelli said that as smartphone become larger, some consumers may instead pick the tablets over the phablets because of the small different between a device with a six-inch display and a seven-inch screen.
He pointed to the newly released iPad Air by Apple as an example of a device that could make consumers pick tablets with larger screens over the in-between phablets.
While lower sales may disappoint tablet makers, it would particularly hit hard Apple whose market share in 2017 is projected to shrink to only 30.6 per cent from 35 per cent in 2013 and 45.6 per cent in 2012.
And the culprits are the Android tablets whose market share will be at 58.8 per cent in 2017, slightly down from 60.8 per cent in 2013 but higher than the 52 per cent market share in 2012.
While Windows-powered tablets would also grow during the same years, their market share represents only crumbs from the table compared to that of Android and iOS tablets.
Mr Mainelli explained the lower preference for Windows tablets to Microsoft still believing that a tablet should have the power of a PC. He added that application ecosystem for Windows 8 is still weak because of Microsoft's push for a unified application development for tablets and laptops whose approach is complicated by its different screen sizes on various devices.
Learn more about IDC's technology forecast for 2014 in this video.