Tablet growth slows as consumer market matures

European tablet sales through distribution reached a record high in the run up to Christmas 2013, says Context, but indications are growth is slowing

European tablet shipments through distribution reached a new record high of over 4.5 million units in the last few weeks leading up to Christmas 2013, according to new statistics from market-watchers at Context.

However the once stratospheric growth of the form factor now seems to be slowing as the sector begins to reach maturity. Having more than trebled during the first quarter of 2013, growth was just 39.1% in the final quarter. Over 1.5m units were sold in the UK, and around 950,000 in the second largest regional market, Germany.

Context found that tablets accounted for 57% of sales in the notebook, netbook and tablet market, mostly thanks to consumers, as business-targeted notebooks did not seem to be greatly affected over the course of the year.

Context senior analyst Marie-Christine Pygott said that although tablets would move into commercial environments in greater numbers, she still expected uptake to remain slow and, for now will represent “an addition to, rather than a replacement of, traditional clamshell systems”.

“Also, recent efforts by vendors to provide ultraportable solutions such as thin and light clamshell laptops and hybrid solutions will also increasingly find their way into the commercial space and successfully compete with tablets,” noted Pygott.

Across Europe, Android systems saw the majority of sales, growing by 82.2% in Q4 to reach a market share of 69.8%.

This figure stands in comparison to the iPad, which saw more restricted growth of 2.7%, but still accounts for 28.9% of units shipped, although Context noted it would probably have seen its market share shrink were it not for very strong sales in the UK.

There was also bad news for Microsoft, which was unable to scrape even 1% market share for its Windows 8-based offering during Q4, although Context analysts softened the blow by suggesting rising interest from business buyers could be an encouraging sign for 2014.

Within the Android segment, the strongest growth was seen on budget seven inch devices, which doubled to reach 1.59m units, although 10.1 inch and mid-range eight inch tablets also did well.

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