IDC lowers its tablet forecast for 2013, predicts single-digit growth rate by 2017

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Metrics and analysis company IDC is taking a conservative outlook on the tablet market in the coming years. Instead of predicting an ever increasing boom, the company is revising its forecasts slightly down for the next several years.

According to a recent report, tablet shipments in 2013 will be slightly less than predicted, dropping down to 221.3 million units from a previous forecast of 227.4 million units. Though overall shipments will increase, the growth rate will slow in 2014 (22%) and will continue to decline into 2017, when tablet growth will only be in the single digits. IDC predicts manufacturers will only ship 386.3 million units in 2017, down from an earlier forecast of 407 million units.

Part of this trend away from tablets may be the evolution of large-screened smartphones and market saturation as customers hold onto their tablets for a longer period of time.

“In some markets consumers are already making the choice to buy a large smartphone rather than buying a small tablet, and as a result we’ve lowered our long-term forecast,” said Tom Mainelli, Research Director, Tablets. “Meanwhile, in mature markets like the U.S. where tablets have been shipping in large volumes since 2010 and are already well established, we’re less concerned about big phones cannibalizing shipments and more worried about market saturation.”

This reasoning about big smartphones makes sense as there is not much difference between a 6-inch smartphone and a 7-inch tablet. Given the choice, customers may choose the slight smaller smartphone to get a all-in-one device. That’s not saying the tablet market is dead. Bigger tablets like the iPad Air may still drive sales, as long as customers are willing to pay the higher prices, says IDC.

So what do you think? Would you drop your iPad mini if you could get a 5- or 6-inch iPhone?

[Image from IDC]