It hasn’t been a great year for the worldwide tablet market. According to a recent forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC), 2014 will show a colossal slowdown, with year-over-year growth slumping to 7.2 percent—a massive drop from 52.5 percent in 2013. A major factor in this deceleration is a full year of decline in shipments of Apple iPads.
What’s going on? For one, tablets seem to have a longer lifespan than the market anticipated. “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,” says Keith Ryan, program director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. Instead, Ryan explains, tablet owners are keeping their devices—sometimes for more than four years. Consumers, it seems, regard their tablets as being more like PCs than smartphones.
Support and Competition
There are other factors, too. “We believe the two major drivers for longer-than-expected tablet lifecycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within the iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks,” says Ryan.
Plus, the two-in-one, or detachable, product category has made strides—devices are slimmer, more affordable and there are more models available. Still, even with these improvements, shipments of two-in-ones are likely to hit just 8.7 million units this year, or about 4 percent of the overall tablet market. The marginal performance is mainly due to consumer hesitancy around the two-in-ones’ Windows 8 platform.
What to Watch
To address these challenges, expect manufacturers to focus on larger screens and cellular-enabled tablets, says Jean Philippe Bouchard, IDC’s Research Director for Tablets. Other wild cards? The industry reaction to Windows 10, what Google does with Android and Chrome OS, and rumors of Apple expanding its product line. Says Bouchard: “The next six months should be really interesting.”