Global tablet shipments are expected to reach 289 million units in 2014, up 23.6% on year. The growth, however, will be weaker than that for smartphones due to the fact that the tablet market has already entered the maturity stage, according to Digitimes Research's latest figures.
In 2014, non-Apple first-tier brand vendors' products are expected to have more room for price cuts, making their products even more competitive in China than their white-box competitors. The lower pricing means retailers will be more eager to promote their products. The gap in terms of functionality between Google's official Android operating system and Android Open Source Project (used mostly by China white-box vendors) are also expected to be widen. As a result, the non-Apple first-tier vendors' combined shipments are expected to grow dramatically to 105 million units in 2014, slightly surpassing China white-box vendors' combined shipments of 104 million units, according to estimates by Digitimes Research.
Although the fifth-generation iPad (Air) is expected to attract consumers and stimulate replacement demand, the device's high pricing are expected to limit iPad series products' shipment growth in 2014 with the volume to reach only 80 million units.
As for brand vendors' rankings, Apple and Samsung Electronics will remain in the top two in 2014. Since Samsung will adopt more aggressive marketing and pricing strategies in 2014, its shipments will reach 52.5 million units, reducing its gap with the market leader Apple. Lenovo, as the largest PC vendor worldwide and with advantages in its home market of China, is expected to ship 9.5 million units in 2014 to take third place in the tablet market.
Having failed to obtain orders for the next-generation Google Nexus tablets, Asustek Computer is expected to step up promoting its own-brand tablets, and it will ship nine million units in 2014, becoming the fourth largest vendor.
Acer will have a strong presence in entry-level segment, shipping 6.7 million tablets in 2014 to take sixth place, while Google will be the fifth largest vendor. Amazon's and Microsoft's shipments will stay flat or grow only slightly on year.
Digitimes Research expects 7-inch models to remain as the mainstream size for branded tablets in 2014 with shipments set to reach 89.1 million units. But the segment's share of total tablet shipments will drop below 50%. Brand vendors are expected to place more emphasis on 8-inch models as they look to avoid fierce competition in the 7-inch segment, which is crowded with low-price and white-box products. Shipents to the 8-inch segment are expected to reach 30 million units in 2014, triple the volume in 2013 and surpassing 10-inch models' 25.4 million units.
As for Taiwan ODMs, their shipments will hit 117 million units in 2014, accounting only for 63% of the global total, down 5.2pp on year. The share will decline because Samsung and Lenovo, the second and the third largest vendors, are making most of their tablets internally.
To seek lower manufacturing quotes and to diversify risks, brand vendors are expected to further divide their tablet orders among ODMs. Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry) and Pegatron Technology will remain as the top two ODMs for tablets in 2014. With more orders coming from Apple and Asustek, Pegatron will see significant tablet shipment growth in 2014, narrowing its gap with Foxconn. Compal Electronics is expected to surpass Quanta Computer to become the third-largest table ODM, thanks to orders from Apple and its acquisition of Compal Communication.