Tablet Sales Slow For First Time Since Apple's iPad Release In 2010
May 2, 2014

Tablet Sales Slow For First Time Since Apple’s iPad Release In 2010

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

Since the arrival of Apple’s iPad in 2010 tablet devices have been among the hottest products in the computer sector, surpassing sales of laptops and desktops – and even increasing the volume by which the traditional PC had been “dying.” While Apple still leads the market it has also faced increasing competition from a number of makers, with devices running on Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows RT.

On Thursday research firm IDC also reported that for the first time worldwide tablet shipments actually missed targets. Growth in the first quarter of 2014 saw only single-digit growth. According to preliminary data from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, worldwide tablet sales – along with 2-in-1 devices – slipped to 50.4 million in units, a decline of 35.7 percent for the end of 2013. This slowdown was felt across all operating systems and screen sizes.

It is worth noting that the prior quarter did include high-volume holiday sales. Moreover, while the first quarter saw a decline from the end of last year it still saw 3.9 percent growth over the same period a year ago. Apple’s iPad still accounted for about a third of all tablets shipped with about 32.5 percent market share; however it shipped just 16.4 million units in the first quarter of 2014, down from the 26 million shipped at the end of last year and even below the 19.5 million shipped in Q1 2013.

Samsung, by contrast, actually saw an increase in its worldwide share, increasing from 17.2 percent at the tail end of 2013 to 22.3 percent in Q1 2014. IDC noted that the company has worked aggressively with carriers to drive tablet shipments as part of attractively priced smartphone bundles.

After the domination in the market by Apple followed by Samsung, the top five tablet makers include Asus with 5 percent market share, Lenovo at 4.1 percent and Amazon at 1.9 percent.

It is also worth noting that while Apple’s iPad is the top tablet device shipped to retail, Android has a near equal market share as the Google OS is utilized on many devices. However, even Microsoft’s tablet OS could see gains in 2014.

“With roughly two-thirds share, Android continues to dominate the market,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst for IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, in a statement. “Although its share of the market remains small, Windows devices continue to gain traction thanks to sleeper hits like the Asus T100, whose low cost and 2-in-1 form factor appeal to those looking for something that's ‘good enough’.”

The big question is whether this slowdown in the tablet space in the first quarter is an indicator of how the rest of this year could shape up.

“2014 is certainly the year where tablet growth is slowing down,” Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, told redOrbit. “The technical progress between new device generations is becoming smaller and hence the pressure to upgrade is less. At the same time, tablets are the new growth source for wireless carriers. So I think growth will continue but modest compared to the previous years.”

Tablets and larger screen smartphones are also becoming more blurred, but an increasing number of consumers are not seeing a reason to replace existing devices. Since 2010 tablets saw growth as it was a new category, but as many consumers have purchased a device there is little incentive to replace it. At the same time businesses have not widely adopted tablet devices as a replacement for traditional PCs, including laptop computers.

None of this will lead to fears that the “tablet is dying,” but it could suggest that the device will see more modest sales throughout 2014 and beyond.

“The rise of large-screen phones and consumers who are holding on to their existing tablets for ever longer periods of time were both contributing factors to a weaker-than-anticipated quarter for tablets and 2-in-1s,” said Tom Mainelli, IDC Program vice president for devices and displays, in a statement. “In addition, commercial growth has not been robust enough to offset the slowing of consumer shipments.”