SAN FRANCISCO—Global shipments of tablets declined year-over-year for the 10th consecutive quarter in the first quarter of this year as enthusiasm for the devices continues to wane, according to market research firm International Data Corp.
According to Ryan Reith, a vice president at IDC who runs the company's tablet tracker program, the rate at which the tablet market exploded from the launch of the original iPad in 2010 until 2013 was unlike most consumer-oriented markets. "However, it appears for many reasons consumers became less eager to refresh these devices, or in some instances purchase them at all," Reith said.
IDC believes the leading driver for tablet contraction continues to be increased dependency by consumers on smartphones along with minimal technology and form factor progression in tablets.
Tablet OEMs shipped about 36.2 million tablets in the first quarter, a decrease of 8.5 percent compared with the first quarter of 2016, IDC (Framingham, Mass.) said. The rate of contraction, while steep, marked a reduction from the previous five quarters, when the tablet market contracted by double digit percentage points, according to IDC.
Apple Inc., which remains far and away the leader in tablet shipments with market share of close to 25 percent, experienced its 13th straight quarter of year-over-year contraction in shipments in the first quarter, according to IDC.
IDC noted that the tablet market's period of historic growth, peak and contraction has coincided with the dramatic decline of the PC market. However, PC shipments have stabilized and according to IDC grew slightly in the first quarter for the first time since 2012. (IDC estimates that the traditional PC market grew by 0.6 percent in the first quarter, though rival Gartner Inc. estimates that it contracted by 2.4 percent, owing largely to differences in the way the companies track PC shipments).
According to Linn Huang, research director for devices and displays at IDC, a long term threat lies in how the market ultimately settles the debate between detachable tablets—which IDC defines as those that include a wireless keyboard—and convertible notebooks—notebook PCs that have hardwired keyboards that can either flip, spin or twist.
"To date, detachable shipments have dwarfed those of convertibles, but growth of the former has slowed a bit," Huang said.
A recent survey by IDC found that detachable tablet owners held slightly more favorable attitudes towards their devices than convertible notebook owners did, Huang said. "However, owners of both were far more likely to recommend a convertible over a detachable," Huang added.
IDC forecasts that detachables will continue to far outpace convertibles in shipments, but the firm believes the market pendulum seems to be swinging slightly back in favor of convertibles.
—Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.