The tablet market has come a long, long way since Apple reinvented and reenergized the industry with the release of the iPad in 2010. What's ahead for 2014? You can be sure this dynamic market will continue to change.
1) Tablets will continue to eat PC sales
This has been a very bad year for the PC. After having a great run, PC sales will end 2013 at 2008-2009 levels. Many OEMs and others who have deep vested interest in the PC market will continue to claim that 2014 will not be as bad as 2013. Don't bet on it. Instead expect more PC industry declines in 2014. While they may not be as steep as 2013 I still see the PC market shrinking in annual sales.
The tablet is the culprit. And in particular the tablet is affecting notebook sales more than anything else. As tablets like the iPad continue to be accepted as computing devices and as the 2 in1 form factor from Windows OEMs flood the market, we will see traditional PC sales continue to fall.
2) Bigger tablets will be released
I think that to offset the decline of PCs, OEMs will begin to look for ways to differentiate and gain attention to the tablet form factor. Because of this, expect bigger tablets to start to be a trend in 2014. Many of these will come with detachable keyboards but will be elegantly designed slates.
Rumors have it that Apple is also working on a larger screen version of the iPad targeted at the iPad power users. If Apple does this it will only accelerate the work of competitors to create larger screen tablets and bring them to market at a variety of price points.
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3) Dual-boot, Android/Windows tablets
It is also likely that some of these larger screen tablets may dual-boot Android and Windows 8.1. This way when you are in tablet mode you can use a tablet OS with Android and when you are in computing mode you can use Windows 8.1.
While personally I am skeptical of dual-boot Windows / Android tablets they may appeal to a person who is already a Windows PC user who also has an Android phone or tablet. These customers may value the benefit of both ecosystems since they are already in them both.
These products will be a little higher priced than the mainstream prices but the dual benefit may be worth it to a segment of the market.
4) More tablet market segmentation - including more kid's tablets
The tablet market is already splintering where high-end tablets are separating themselves from the low-end in terms of computing use cases. But media tablets are still prevalent. Kindle Fire's are selling well, so is the first generation iPad Mini, as well as Samsung's 7" and 8" tablets. These are being used heavily for media and entertainment and this purely media tablet segment is growing.
But we are also now seeing growth in tablets aimed exclusively at children. Tablets like the Nabi tablet, the ClickN Kids 7" tablet, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 children's edition, are starting to see decent sales volume.
This makes sense for certain ages of kids, where the parents may feel more comfortable giving them one of these dedicated tablets pre-loaded with games and media but with the option to acquire more, versus handing the kids a more expensive tablet which the adults use as well.
5) Google will release a Chrome tablet
Lastly, I'll go out on a limb here regarding what Google might release in 2014. I think Google continues to be aggressive with Chrome and develop the HTML app developer ecosystem for touch based web apps. This is why the Chromebook Pixel was so interesting as it got developers thinking about touch based Chrome apps.
I think this was a baby step for Google to release a ChromeOS-based tablet. This would be very low-cost, be focused around the web, and could be a fascinating product.
2014 is going to be a good year for tablets. While they may come in many different shapes, sizes, colors, and prices, they will still contribute to the rapid growth we are seeing in this exciting category.
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