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IDC: Tablet market suffers massive slowdown in 2014, Apple's iPad not immune

Year-over-year growth in the tablet market is projected to fall by more than 45 percentage points from its 2013 rate, new data released Tuesday suggests, as Apple is expected to book the first full-year shipment decline in the iPad's history.

The primary issue facing the tablet market —  which is likely to book a growth rate of just 7.2 percent in 2014, compares to 52.5 percent in 2013 —  is the lengthening replacement cycle, according to market research firm IDC. Consumers who were expected to replace their tablets every two to three years are instead waiting four years or more.

"The tablet market continues to be impacted by a few major trends happening in relevant markets," IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers executive Ryan Reith said in a release. "In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every 2-3 years. What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than 3 years and in some instances more than 4 years."

IDC believes that consumers simply see no need to replace tablets as often because manufacturers have committed to keeping the devices up-to-date with software patches, while the increasing size of smartphones has also caused them to subsume some tablet duties.

The release of 2-in-1 tablet/laptop hybrid devices, which run on Microsoft's Windows 8 platform, have not helped sales. Those devices are thought to account for just 4 percent of the market, leaving manufacturers to try other strategies for growth.

"We need to look at how the tablet ecosystem is answering these challenges, and right now we see a lot of pressure on tablet prices and an influx of entry-level products, which ultimately serves Android really well," IDC tablet research director Jean Philippe Bouchard said. "But we also see tablet manufacturers trying to offset this price pressure by focusing on larger screens and cellular-enabled tablets. The next six months should be really interesting."