Consumers' appetites for new tablet computers looks to be waning fast.
Following back-to-back quarters of unimpressive tablet shipments, researcher IDC on Friday slashed its 2014 worldwide forecast for tablets and tablet/laptop hybrids, citing an obvious slowdown in demand. IDC said shipments of tablets and hybrids, often called 2-in-1s, will rise 6.5 percent this year to 233.1 million units, well below its prior forecast of 12.1 percent growth.
There are a handful of reasons for sapped demand in tablets. First, most people who want tablets likely already have them. Anyone interested in upgrading often passes down an old model to a friend or relative, which cuts down on demand for the newest products. Also, wireless providers don't generally offer two-year contracts -- and the subsidies that come along -- for tablets, which also reduces interest in upgrading.
However, IDC pointed out that while North America and Western Europe will see flat growth in the tablet market this year, emerging markets are still seeing demand. This trend appears to parallel what's happening in smartphones, where since 2011 emerging markets have accounted for more than 50 percent of annual smartphone shipments, while mature markets are experiencing slower growth.
These trends mean tablet and smartphone makers will have to build up a presence in emerging economies to capture that growth. At the same time, they'll have to live with less profitable sales from those regions, since devices sold into those markets are usually cheaper.
The tablet market could get a shot in the arm next year, when Apple is reportedly going to start production of its next iPad tablet, expected to include a bigger screen. Still, even Apple -- the leader in tablet sales -- has admitted demand for tablets has been soft lately.