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How Tablet Sales Have Exploded, And Where The Next Wave Of Growth Will Come From

 

Tablets are the fastest ramping computing device in history. Shipments have grown from a relatively paltry 17 million shipments in 2010, to 65 million shipments in 2011, and are on pace to hit 122 million in 2012. 

However, despite that breathtaking pace, ownership remains concentrated in a few markets and— within those markets— consolidated in a few demographics.

In a recent report from BI Intelligence, we revisit our tablet forecast and update our shipment projections, examine the demographics of who is currently using tablets, and analyze where the next wave of users may come from. 



Here's why we project tablet shipments will top 120 million this year:

  • The fourth quarter will be huge for tablet shipments: Our estimate of 122 million shipped tablets implies fourth quarter shipments of 56 million, a 90% increase over the same quarter a year prior, and almost double the previous record for quarterly tablet shipments. Shipments through the first three quarters are already up 89%. In 2010 and 2011, the fourth quarter accounted for 55% and 44%, respectively, of annual sales.
  • Two factors explain this: First, tablets make great gifts. But more significantly, tablets don't have a natural life-cycle built into the product like smartphones because most users are not on a contract. Thus, holidays and the fourth quarter tend to play a disproportionate role in tablet penetration. Not coincidentally, we saw a slew of new tablet releases this September so manufacturers could have their latest and greatest on the market in time for the holidays. 
  • However, things will be different in developing markets: China and India do not have heavily commercial traditional holidays in the fourth quarter. But also, as we discuss in our recent report on the BRICs, carriers play a vital part in the mobile ecosystem. Because credit card penetration is low, carriers usually handle billing for customers, not just voice and data, but mobile app payments as well. Since Internet connections, Wi-Fi and otherwise, are not as ubiquitous in the developing world, carriers are going to play a crucial role in cultivating tablet distribution and penetration.
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