Worldwide tablet shipments recorded a year-over-year decline for the first time since the market's inception in 2010., according to new data from IDC.
Overall shipments for tablets and 2-in-1 devices reached 76.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2014 (4Q14) for -3.2% growth. Although the fourth quarter witnessed a decline in the global market, shipments for the full year 2014 increased 4.4%, totalling 229.6 million units.
"The tablet market is still very top heavy in the sense that it relies mostly on Apple and Samsung to carry the market forward each year," says Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst, Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker.
"Although Apple expanded its iPad line-up by keeping around older models and offering a lower entry price point of $249, it still wasn't enough to spur iPad sales given the excitement around the launch of the new iPhones,” he says.
“Meanwhile, Samsung's struggles continued as low-cost vendors are quickly proving that mid- to high-priced Android tablets simply aren't cut out for today's tablet market."
Apple's lead over other vendors has yet to betruly challenged as it shipped 21.4 million tablets, accounting for over a quarter of the market with 28.1% volume share, IDC says.
Despite Samsung's woes, it managed to hold on to the second place with 11 million units shipped. Lenovo (4.8%), ASUS (4%), and Amazon (2.3%) rounded out the top 5 although only Lenovo managed to grow annually when compared to Q4 2013. Lenovo maintained its tight grip on the Asia/Pacific market thanks to its massive scale in the PC business and the success of its low-cost tablet offerings.
"Despite an apparent slow-down of the market, we maintain our forecast about tablet growth in 2015," says Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director, Tablets. "Microsoft's new OS, a general shift towards larger screen form factor and productivity focused solutions, and technology innovations such as gesture interface that could be introduced in tablets will help the market maintain positive growth in 2015."
Tablet Vendor Highlights
Apple's efforts to maintain iPad momentum have fallen flat so far as the latest generation of the iPad Air and mini offer very minimalistic upgrades over their previous versions. Cannibalisation at the bottom from the iPhone and at the top from the Mac appear to be a serious issue for the iPad.
Samsung was able to achieve its goal of 40 million tablets in 2014, up 1.1% from 2013. Samsung's Tab 4 series has been well received and its recent announcement to focus on mid-high tier tablets should help the bottom line though market share will likely continue to struggle.
Lenovo's portfolio depth is ideal. The vendor covers most screen sizes on both Android and Windows, allowing Lenovo to capture benefits of end users' shift towards larger screen sizes and productivity in general. While still niche, the AnyPen technology introduced at CES should become of feature spotlight of Lenovo's product roadmap in 2015.
Asus' T100 was quite well received during at its initial launch during holiday season 2013. Though the T100 was still a top performer this quarter, it was met with stiff competition from other low-cost vendors. Asus recently expanded its Transformer line-up with the launch of three new "Chi" 2-in1's, which are expected to be available this month.
Amazon recorded the steepest annual volume decline among the top five vendors. Despite a product refresh at the end of September with their Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, and the introduction of a low-end 6-inch Fire HD (excluded from our numbers given the small screen size does not match IDC's definition of a tablet) and 7-inch Fire HD, holiday sales declined nearly -70% compared to last year.