The worldwide tablet market recorded its fourth straight quarter of lower shipments, dropping 12.6 per cent year-on-year to 48.7 million units, according to IDC.
With mature markets such as North America, Western Europe and Asia Pacific “well past 100 million active tablets per region”, the opportunities for growth are getting fewer, the research firm said.
“We believe the traditional slate tablet has a place in the personal computing world. However, as the smartphone installed base continues to grow and the devices get bigger and more capable, the need for smaller form factor slate tablets becomes less clear,” said IDC’s Ryan Reith.
In response to the slowing market, the industry is seeing growing vendor interest in new form factors, with “detachable tablets” with keyboards becoming a clear focus for many.
But this development also has its challenges, with traditional PC makers set to come up against pressure from traditional smartphone OEMs, “many of which have become accustomed to delivering extremely low cost products”.
Apple maintained its top position in the tablet market, although “Apple’s self-cannibalisation and increasing competition from PC vendors with detachable tablets have both contributed to a decline in iPad shipments”, IDC said. The launch of the iPad Pro may “serve as a silver lining” as the market shifts in favour of productivity.
Samsung’s “everlasting marketing push” has seen it close the gap on Apple, but while it is “one of the few remaining premium Android tablet vendors”, the bulk of shipments have come from the low end.
And third-place Lenovo’s flat performance in a down market “should be viewed as a positive sign that the vendor is committed to being a market leader and has the means to achieve that goal”.