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RIP tablet? IDC reveals market in steep decline since 2014

By Ashton Young
Sat 6 May 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Recent International Data Corporation (IDC) research has revealed the global tablet market to be continuing its decline in the first quarter of 2017.

Total shipments came in at 36.2 million, representing a year-over-year decline of 8.5 percent and marking the tenth straight quarter that tablets have experienced a decline over the same quarter a year earlier - the last five quarters have all recorded double-digit drops.

IDC has divided the tablet market into two different product categories - both of which are headed in very different directions.

Devices offering a first-party keyboard are referred to as detachable tablets, and for the most part have continued to experience growth. However, the other category is deemed as slate tablets (those lacking the keyboard option) and while shipments peaked in 2014, the market has been in a steep decline ever since, which IDC expects to continue.

Program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, Ryan Reith says that as far as they’re ware the tablet market was truly created in 2010 with the launch of the original iPad, despite unsuccessful attempts by other OEMs in the years leading up to this.

"The rate at which the tablet market grew from 2010 to 2013 was unlike many other consumer-oriented device markets we've seen before. However, it appears for many reasons consumers became less eager to refresh these devices, or in some instances purchase them at all,” says Reith.

“We continue to believe the leading driver for this was the increased dependency on smartphones, along with rather minimal technology and form factor progression."

During this roller coaster period of growth and decline, the personal computer (PC) market was experiencing one of the worst declines in history, however, fast forward to 2017 and traditional PCs have returned to growth for the first time since 2012.

Research director for Devices & Displays at IDC, Linn Huang says a long-term threat to the overall PC market lies in how the market ultimately settles on the detachable versus convertible debate.

“To date, detachable shipments have dwarfed those of convertibles, but growth of the former has slowed a bit. In IDC's 2017 U.S. Consumer PCD Survey, fielded over the previous two months, detachable owners held slightly more favorable attitudes towards their detachables than convertible owners did for their convertibles,” says Huang.

“However, owners of both were far more likely to recommend a convertible over a detachable."

In terms of vendors in the market, Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Amazon.com and Lenovo were the top five in terms of shipments (in that order).

However, Huawei was the only vendor amongst the top five to experience positive growth in 1Q17, with shipments of 2.7 million, up 31.7 percent from the 2 million shipped in the first quarter a year ago.

The remaining four companies all experienced flat to negative growth, although IDC asserts Lenovo is likely best positioned in terms of channel strategy to grow its tablet business and expects to see more of its successful notebook PC lineup migrate into the detachable tablet category. 

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