HANOVER, Germany -- A booming market for smartphones and tablet computers was expected to drive the German IT sector higher in 2013, although growth was slowing slightly, said industry lobby BITKOM on the eve of the world's top high-tech fair.

BITKOM said it expected sales growth of 1.4% in the sector for 2013 to 153.3 billion euros (US $199 billion), a marginal drop on the 2.2% gain seen last year.

"With these figures, the IT market will again grow considerably faster than the wider economy," said BITKOM president Dieter Kempf. "This is also good news for the jobs market."

Sales of tablet computers in Germany were expected to rise 11% to 2.3 billion euros, the lobby forecast. "Sales of tablets should for the first time show the same sales levels as desktop PCs," predicted Kempf.

Cloud computing continues to be a major driver for the German IT sector, although the stellar growth was also expected to slow slightly.

In 2013, firms expect some 4.6 billion euros in sales from cloud computing products, a gain of 53%, compared to a rise of 58% last year.

By 2016, cloud computing should bring in some 13.7 billion euros, BITKOM forecast.

The past four years has seen a near-complete transformation from standard mobile phones to smartphones, the BITKOM figures showed.

In 2009, smartphones accounted for just 17% of phones sold and 34% of the turnover.

By 2013, they account for 81% of units sold and 96% of the sales in the 8.8-billion euro market.

The publication of the BITKOM forecasts is the traditional first event of the CeBIT high-tech fair, which will be inaugurated by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk later Monday.

The fair, which runs until March 9, throws open its doors on Tuesday.

Around 4,100 exhibitors from some 70 countries are expected in the northern German city of Hanover, including tech giants Microsoft, SAP, IBM and Google.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013