It’s every tech pundit’s favorite game to play: forecasting the end of popular technologies. Facebook was recently in the spotlight as researchers from Princeton mapped out its inevitable end using disease-control metrics. But just as “smartphone saturation” and the pending dwindling of smartphone sales was becoming a more generally accepted possibility in the U.S., figures from the International Data Corporation suggest tablets are on a downward slide as well.
With “signs of slower growth” obvious from the IDC’s information in the fourth quarter of 2013, speculation abounds surrounding “tablet saturation” and the lagging of a lucrative sector of technology — despite Samsung and Apple’s tablet sales having increased. (The numbers show that the increases in the past quarter demonstrate decreases year-over-year, which bodes ill for 2014’s sales.)
The outlying figure is that of Lenovo’s with 325% growth year-over-year — a number even more alarming to competitive tablet makers considering Lenovo’s recent string of high-profile acquisitions. Its recent purchase of IBM’s low-end server unit, and Google’s Motorola Mobility unit have many wondering if Lenovo will be the next household name in mobile devices.
But it is the words of Tom Mainelli, Research Director, Tablets, at the IDC that have spurred the rumors of “tablet saturation” in the U.S.:
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. We expect commercial purchases of tablets to continue to accelerate in mature markets, but softness in the consumer segment—brought about by high penetration rates and increased competition for the consumer dollar—point to a more challenging environment for tablets in 2014 and beyond.
If the IDC’s predictions are indeed a true blueprint for the future of the tablet, Lenovo and the other headliners will have to wrestle with these challenges in tablet success. But it is too early to call the end of the tablet era, especially when emerging markets have not achieved anything close to mobile saturation.