Robyn Tovey takes a look at what's in store for the mobile computing market

GfK: Are hybrids key to the future?

As the mobile computing market continues to grow, GfK Account Executive Robyn Tovey takes a look at how hybrid devices and ultrathin computers could possibly pose a threat to notebooks.

Following a spike in December 2012 which saw almost three times as many media tablets* sold in the UK Retail Channels as traditional notebooks, January 2013 sales were down 63 per cent January on January.

Due to the launch of several high profile 7-inch devices at relatively affordable price points in Q4 2012, we witnessed a surge in sales for these portable computing devices, making them the key gifting product for Christmas 2012.

However, as we moved into January 2013 and the gifting activity slowed down, the sales of these devices also began to subside. The threefold difference between notebooks and media tablet sales was scaled down to almost a similar level of sales volume.

Although the market has slowed down in comparison to December 2012, it is still growing in excess of 200 per cent in volume terms, year-on-year. The ASP (average selling price) which is down 29 per cent in comparison to January 2012, has also had an impact on sales value. However, even when taking that into consideration the market has grown in excess of 100 per cent in value terms, year-on-year.

“With the average selling price around £720, in most cases purchasing a tablet and keyboard separately remains a cheaper option than buying a hybrid.”

Robyn Tovey, GfK

It is very likely that we will continue to see these growing trends throughout 2013, as lower prices will continue to drive sales of these devices. However the market will become increasingly interesting as more and more hybrid devices begin to hit retail shelves. Hybrid devices, characterised by a detachable or foldable keyboard, are currently seeing a value growth rate of 99 per cent January on January.

The stumbling block for most consumers looking to invest in a hybrid computer at the moment is the price. With an average selling price around £720, in most cases purchasing a tablet and keyboard separately remains a cheaper option. However, if the price points of hybrid devices were to drop in the future, this form factor could pose a threat for notebooks, given the superior mobility hybrids offer.

Another mobile computing form factor that is displaying growth is the ultrathin computer**. In January 2013, year on year volume and value growths reached 372 per cent and 196 per cent respectively. With an average selling price drop of 37 per cent in January 2013 compared to the corresponding month of 2012, it is no wonder this form factor is picking up traction in the retail market. This surge in sales has spurred many manufacturers to increase their portfolio of ultrathin models, to the degree that there are now 319 per cent more models available to consumers than in January 2012.

All in all, there have been some interesting developments in the mobile computing retail market as some of the newer form factors gain traction. It will be interesting to see how these form factors progress, and which fall by the wayside over the coming months. The key to success for each of these form factors will likely be whether they can be competitively priced.

*Media Tablets – This GfK defined product group encompasses tablets that run under a mobile operating system.

**Ultrathins – Height ≤21.0 mm for ≥14.0” systems; Height ≤20.0 mm for <14.0” systems; Weight: <=2,3kg.

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