That's About The Size Of It: Tablet Market Declines For The First Time

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For the first time since Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, tablet shipment numbers have declined. According to a report from research firm NPD DisplaySearch, 56 million tablets shipped worldwide in the first quarter, compared with 59 million in the year-ago quarter.

In the same report, NPD DisplaySearch lowered its projections for tablet shipments in 2014.

Related: Tablet Shipments Stall with Tough Year Ahead, IDC Reports

NPD DisplaySearch originally had predicted 315 million units shipping in 2014 but has lowered that number to 285 million. That was, however, an increase of 14 percent on the year. The organization also predicted that the rate of annual growth in the tablet market will shrink to single-digit percentages by 2017.

The change in the outlook for the tablet market, as cited in the report, is largely due to the competition between larger-screen smartphones of 5.5 inches and up and smaller-screen tablets between 7 and 7.9 inches.

"The problem is customers want a device that does it all, but there is no device that does it all," said Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst based in Marietta, Ga. "People want multiple-sized screens. If they are surfing the Web they want a larger screen, but if they are out and about and not surfing the Web, they want a smaller screen. But they can't have it all."

There are too many devices for users to choose from, and it isn’t a surprise that some devices are taking away sales from other devices, according to Kagan.

"The larger-screen phones can do a lot of the same things that smaller-screen tablets can do," he said. "You even have the larger-screen tablets taking away from the laptop market. They are all eating away at each other. Once we saw Apple release the iPad Mini just two years ago, we knew this was going to happen. The writing was on the wall."

The report comes just a day after Samsung said higher sales of its big-screen Galaxy phones "replaced demand for 7- to 8-inch tablets."

"Tablet PC demand in 2014 is being affected by falling demand for the 7-inch class in emerging regions and in China, where many local white-box brands have experienced lower-than-expected shipment growth," Hisakazu Torii, vice president, smart application research at NPD DisplaySearch, said in a statement. "Most major brands have recently reduced their business plans for 2014. There is a risk that the replacement cycle for tablet PCs will lengthen beyond the one- to two-year range unless brands can develop more attractive usage scenarios.”

"I completely agree with [the NPD analysis]. We do app development as well and we can run most of our apps on both small tablets and large smartphones," Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at SigmaNet, an Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider. "A majority of the time, it's more convenient to run apps on a larger smartphone. The only way it doesn't work is if there is a visual reason, such as an impairment or an abundance of data from the app to fit on one screen."

The 7-inch-class tablets had accounted for 58 percent of global tablet sales in 2013, according to NPD’s research.  

Apple still dominates the tablet space with 33 percent market share in the first quarter, while Samsung holds a strong 22 percent market share, research firm IDC reported in early May. 


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