Global tablets expected to slow in 2015, led by iPad shipment downturn
IDC says users now waiting longer before upgrading, as legacy software support becomes norm
The worldwide tablet market is set for dramatic deceleration in 2014, according to the latest forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC).
Year-on-year growth will slow to 7.2%, down from 52.5% in 2013, the ICT industry research firm predicted. IDC expects that 2014 will be the first full year of decline in Apple iPad shipments and the Cupertino-based company's shipments shrinkage will lead the overall downturn in the slate form factor.
IDC said neither the iPad nor the overall market slowdown should come as a surprise, as device lifecycles for tablets have continued to lengthen, increasingly resembling those of PCs more than smartphones.
"The tablet market continues to be impacted by a few major trends happening in relevant markets," said Ryan Reith, programme director, Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, IDC.
"In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every two to three years. What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than three years and in some instances more than four years. We believe the two major drivers for longer-than-expected tablet lifecycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks."
Among different form factors and product groups, significant advancements have been made recently by hardware manufacturers to advance the two-in-one, or detachable, product category. Devices have become thinner, prices have come down, and more models are available. Despite these advances, shipments of two-in-one devices are only expected to reach 8.7m units in 2014, which is just 4% of the total tablet plus two-in-one market. A large reason for the relatively small uptake has been consumer hesitancy around the Windows 8 platform, which the majority of two-in-one devices are built upon.
"We need to look at how the tablet ecosystem is answering these challenges, and right now we see a lot of pressure on tablet prices and an influx of entry-level products, which ultimately serves Android really well," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director, Tablets, IDC. "But we also see tablet manufacturers trying to offset this price pressure by focusing on larger screens and cellular-enabled tablets. The next six months should be really interesting."
Looking forward, IDC said the few unknowns that could impact overall tablet shipments are: the industry reaction to Windows 10; what Google does in this space with Android and Chrome OS; and Apple's rumoured product line expansion (the introduction of a 12.9-inch tablet). Despite all of these unknowns, it seems clear that consumers can be expected to hold onto tablets longer than smartphones.