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NPD: Tablet Unit Growth Is Slowing Thanks To Small Notebooks, Big Phones

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. — Global tablet PC demand is slowing and will grow only 2 percent in unit shipments in 2014, thanks to competition from smaller notebooks and bigger smartphone displays, NPD DisplaySearch said.

The research company forecast global tablet unit shipments this year of 254 million, up 2 percent from 2013 but down from a previously forecast 14 percent. Shipments will continue to grow by single digits through 2018, driven mainly by replacement sales, the company said.

The average tablet PC screen size is expected to increase from 8 inches in 2014 to 9 inches in 2018, NPD added.

“Leading brands are changing their business plans because the rapid growth that tablet PC demand has experienced over the past several years is ending,” said Hisakazu Torii, NPD Display Search smart application research VP. Shipments of 7- to 7.9-inch tablet PCs will be cannibalized somewhat by 5.5-inch-and-larger smartphones, he said, so the unit share of 7- to 7.9-inch tablet PCs will decline from 55 percent of tablet sales in in 2014 to 35 percent in 2018, he said.

Because tablet PCs directly compete with smaller notebook PCs with screen sizes up to 13 inches, he said, shipments of tablet PCs with 11-inch-and-larger screens will rise from 2 percent of tablet share in 2014 to 14 percent in 2018. Microsoft introduced its new Surface Pro 3 models with 12-inch screens, he noted.

NPD also forecast a recovery in the global notebook market because of the Window 8 refresh cycle, continued Windows XP migration, and the introduction of low-priced Windows-based notebook PCs and Chromebooks. “The decline in notebook PC demand is expected to level off in 2016, with flat or slow growth thereafter,” Torii said. “Consumer acceptance of the Windows 9 user interface will be the key to continued notebook PC demand growth,” he added.

Notebook shipments will hit 179.6 million in 2014, NPD forecast.