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Tablet market still struggles amid seasonal improvement

Posted: 03 Nov 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IDC? tablet? smartphone? detachable? Apple?

International Data Corp. has released a report indicating that the global tablet market logged lower shipments for the fourth straight quarter with 48.7 million units shipped in 3Q15. Despite signs of a slight seasonal improvement, shipments were down 12.6 per cent YoY, which underscores the persistent challenges faced by the tablet market.

At the close of 2014, IDC estimated the installed base of tablets to be 581.9 million globally, which was up 36 per cent from 2013 but slowing quickly. With mature markets such as North America, Western Europe and Asia/Pacific well past 100 million active tablets per region, the opportunities for growth are getting fewer.

"We continue to get feedback that tablet users are holding onto devices upwards of four years," said Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's worldwide quarterly mobile device trackers. "We believe the traditional slate tablet has a place in the personal computing world. However, as the smartphone installed base continues to grow and the devices get bigger and more capable, the need for smaller form factor slate tablets becomes less clear. With shipment volumes slowing over four consecutive quarters, the market appears to be in transition."

Top five tablet vendors

Top five tablet vendors, shipments, market share and growth, 3Q15 (Preliminary Results, Shipments in millions) (Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, October 29, 2015)

In response to these challenges, the industry is seeing growing interest from vendors in new form factors, with detachable tablets becoming a clear focus for many. While detachable tablets have held just a single digit per centage of the overall tablet market, IDC expects this share to increase dramatically over the next 18 months. However, the shift toward detachables presents some new challenges. In particular, the mix of traditional PC OEMs that are evolving their portfolios to include detachables will face pressure from the traditional smartphone OEMs, many of which have become accustomed to delivering extremely low-cost products.

"The first generation of detachable tablets failed to gain much traction, as they represented a series of compromises in terms of both operating system and hardware that few consumers or businesses were willing to accept," said Tom Mainelli, program VP, devices & displays at IDC. "The devices shipping now represent a clear evolution of both OS and hardware, and it's our expectation that both home and pro users will begin to embrace the form factor in larger numbers going forward."

Tablet vendor highlights

Apple still holds the top position in the worldwide tablet market, although the days of deifying the iPad as the ultimate tablet may have come to an end. Apple's self-cannibalisation and increasing competition from PC vendors with detachable tablets have both contributed to a decline in iPad shipments. However, the impending launch of the iPad Pro may serve as a silver lining as the market shifts towards productivity-enabling devices.

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