Is the market nearing peak tablet?
New data from IT market research firm IDC shows that the tablet market slowed toward the end of last year. In the fourth quarter of 2014 (4Q14), tablet shipments – which include 2-in-1 devices – were down 3.2 percent year-over-year. In total, vendors shipped 76.1 million units.
"Worldwide tablet shipments recorded a year-over-year decline for the first time since the market's inception in 2010," observed the analyst group in a statement.
The news is not all bad. For the entirety of 2014, tablet shipments were up 4.4 percent, for a total of 229.6 million units.
IDC's Jitesh Ubrani, a senior research analyst for the firm's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker unit, observed that brisk demand for Apple's supersized iPhones may have crimped demand for the iPad. "Although Apple expanded its iPad lineup 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 said in a statement.
Makers of budget Android tablets are creating challenges for South Korean electronics giant Samsung's line of Galaxy Tab computing slates. Ubrani said the company'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 was the clear market leader in 4Q14 with a 28.1 percent share of the market with 21.4 million iPads shipped, compared to a 33.1 percent share of the market and 26 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2013 (4Q13). Samsung took the number two spot with 14.5 percent of the market and shipments of 11 million units for the quarter, down from 17.2 percent market share and 13.5 million units in 4Q13.
Lenovo, Asus and Amazon rounded out the top five. In Lenovo's case, IDC described its portfolio depth as "ideal." The Chinese device maker "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," said IDC.
Meanwhile, Amazon's line of Kindle tablets appears to be in freefall. "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 percent compared to last year," stated the firm.
For all of 2014, Apple and Samsung led the tablet market with 27.6 percent and 17.5 percent market share, respectively. Asus, Lenovo and Amazon followed to round out the top five.
The dip may be short-lived, according to IDC research director Jean Philippe Bouchard. "Despite an apparent slow-down of the market, we maintain our forecast about tablet growth in 2015," he said in a statement. Devices aimed at productivity, Microsoft's upcoming Windows 10 operating, larger screens and "technology innovations such as gesture interface that could be introduced in tablets will help the market maintain positive growth in 2015," he added.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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