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Consumer Tablet Demand is Waning: Gartner

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Apple may have picked the right time to launch its enterprise-focused iPad Pro.

Gartner today revealed the results of a 19,000-person survey conducted in the U.S., U.K., France, China, Brazil and India to gauge consumer demand for tablets. In mature markets, the analyst firm found that just 17 percent of respondents planned to purchase a tablet in the next 12 months.

Although successful in its own right, the app marketplace model appears to be having a negative effect on hardware sales.

"Tablet innovation is driven by applications rather than by the hardware. However, most applications work pretty well with first- and second-generation tablet hardware, and because the operating system (OS) can be upgraded for free, the user is not compelled to change the device," said Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner, in prepared remarks.

"Users are less interested in the hardware and more interested in the applications and how devices using the cloud can interact with each other," she continued.

A majority of households in the U.S. (66 percent) own a tablet. More than 25 of household have two or more tablets, Gartner found. Unless vendors start offering consumers some compelling reasons to snap up their latest wares, tablet ownership may start to decline, warned Escherich.

"The worst-case scenario is that many tablet users will never upgrade or buy a new tablet as phablets and/or two-in-one convertible PCs (both with larger screen) envelop the benefits of a tablet," Escherich stated. "This scenario would result in real household penetration for tablets falling under 40 percent in mature markets."

Nearly half (48 percent) of those surveyed said they wouldn't replace their current computing device until they absolutely had to. And when the time comes to pick a new device, there's no guarantee that they'll choose a tablet. Hybrid PCs like Microsoft's new Surface Book are stealing the tablet's thunder.

"Opportunities appear in the form of hybrids. Demand for this two-in-one form factor is generated by tablet owners and standard laptop users," Escherich observed.

The latest batch of hybrids combine the portability and battery life of tablets with the productivity enhancing features like a full keyboard. "It appears the traditional PC is no longer a compromised device compared with tablets or even smartphones and appeals to consumers in a new, more versatile form factor," Escherich stated.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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