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The tablet market will contract by 2 percent in 2015, according to a new forecast from the Natick, Mass-based analyst group VDC Research. Despite the slowdown, businesses are expected to keep breathing life into the once-hot device category.
Phablet-sized smartphones and longer replacement cycles are crimping tablet shipments, according to the research firm. Fortunately for tablet vendors, enterprises appear poised to pick up the slack.
"Although overall demand for tablets has slowed, tablets have become an increasingly popular selection for enterprise LoB [line-of-business] applications," wrote VDC in a Sept. 1 statement. "VDC projects enterprise shipments of tablets to grow by 12.1 percent annually, significantly outpacing overall demand."
Mobile-savvy businesses are increasingly outfitting their frontline workers with tablets, VDC observed. Tablet vendors have also noticed. "Developing new and higher value-adding opportunities, leading tablet vendors are increasing their focus on enterprise customers and designing solutions to meet the unique functionality and security requirements many of these customers require," stated VDC.
Last month, Apple unveiled the iPad Pro, a productivity-focused 12.9-inch tablet that supports the company's new Smart Keyboard – a keyboard, cover and a tablet stand combo – and pen input with the optional Apple Pencil. The iPad Pro goes on sale next month with a starting price of $799.
Microsoft got an early jump on the trend with last year's release of the business-friendly Surface Pro 3. The technology giant is widely expected to debut a follow-up to the tablet during an Oct. 6 media event in New York City.
In July, International Data Corporation (IDC) announced that tablet shipments fell to 44.7 million units during the second quarter of 2015, a 7 percent year-over-year decline and a 3.9 percent drop from the previous quarter.
Like VDC, IDC's analysts expect vendors' newfound focus on productivity to help keep the tablet market afloat. In a statement, DC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani remarked that "with newer form factors like 2-in-1s, and added productivity-enabling features like those highlighted in iOS 9, vendors should be able to bring new vitality to a market that has lost its momentum."
Shifting market dynamics should also help heighten the profiles of Android and Windows.
"From an OS perspective, we see Android gaining ground against iOS in the consumer tablet market as iPad shipments stall," says David Krebs, executive vice president of VDC Research, in a statement. "In addition, Windows' footprint in the enterprise segment is significant, driven by demand for specialized rugged tablets and also the success of Microsoft's Surface Pro line of 2-in-1s."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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