Worldwide tablet shipment growth is forecast to slow to 22.2 per cent year-on-year in 2014 to 270.5 million units, says analyst firm IDC.
This year tablets are expected to reach 221.3 million units, down slightly from a previous forecast of 227.4 million. However, this is still 53.5 per cent above 2012 levels.
By 2017, IDC reckons annual market growth will slow to single-digit percentages and shipments will peak at 386.3 million units, down from the previous forecast of 407 million units.
The rise of large phones could push consumers back from small tablets to larger tablets, the firm anticipates.
"Apple’s launch of the iPad Air, a much thinner and lighter version of its 9.7-inch product, could herald another market transition back toward larger screens, presuming consumers are willing to pay the higher costs associated with bigger screens," said IDC in a statement.
"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 US where tablets have been shipping in large volumes since 2010 and are already well established, we’re less concerned about big phones cannibalising shipments and more worried about market saturation."
Jitesh Ubrani, Research Analyst, Worldwide Tablet Tracker, added that it won’t be easy for Microsoft devices.
"For months, Microsoft and Intel have been promising more affordable Windows tablets and 2-in-1 devices," he said.
"This holiday season, we expect a huge push for these devices as both companies flex their marketing muscles; however we still don’t expect them to gain much traction. We’re already halfway through the holiday quarter, and though there have been some relatively high-profile launches from the likes of Dell, HP, and Lenovo, we’ve yet to see widespread availability of these devices, making it difficult for Windows to gain share during this crucial period."
Tablet OS marketshare (2012 to 2017)
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, December 2013