IDC Tablet Shipments Study Shows a Market Stuck in the Doldrums

IDC Tablet Shipments Study Shows a Market Stuck in the Doldrums
Apple Still Leads the Pack Even as Market Share Slides
Samsung Has Another Down Year for Tablets
Lenovo Results Are a Mixed Bag
Asus Struggles to Keep Its Market Position
Where Did Huawei Come From?
Tablet Owners Stretch Out the Upgrade Life Cycle
Look for Hybrid Tablets to Be a Rising Market Force
Big-Screen Smartphones Affecting Tablet Sales
The Coming Smartphone-PC Maker Vendor Battle
The Market Is Simply Weak
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IDC Tablet Shipments Study Shows a Market Stuck in the Doldrums

Tablet shipments are down, with no turnaround expected, at least in the near future, even for the iPad. Can hybrids give the market a much needed boost?

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Apple Still Leads the Pack Even as Market Share Slides

Apple is still the market leader in tablets. During the third quarter, the company shipped 9.9 million units worldwide, giving it 20.3 percent of the market. During the same period in 2014, Apple's market share stood at 22.1 percent. What's worse, the company's year-over-year shipments are down 19.7 percent. All signs indicate that device buyers aren't especially excited about buying iPads or any other brand of tablet.

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Samsung Has Another Down Year for Tablets

Like Apple, Samsung has had another rough quarter. The company shipped 8 million tablets during the third quarter, down 17.1 percent year-over-year. IDC says that Samsung's "everlasting marketing push" has helped the company get closer to matching Apple's shipments. But the report cautioned that Samsung has to do even more to catch up to Apple.

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Lenovo Results Are a Mixed Bag

Over the last several quarters, Lenovo shipments have been up year-over-year, but IDC says that the company's growth has slowed a bit. During the third quarter, Lenovo shipments were up just 0.9 percent to 3.1 million units. However, thanks in part to the popularity of hybrid tablets, IDC believes that Lenovo is well-positioned to succeed in the coming quarters.

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Asus Struggles to Keep Its Market Position

Asus has been able to stay among the top five tablet makers during the past few years thanks mainly to its Transformer line of products. But it's struggling to hold on to its place in the market. In the third quarter, the company's year-over-year shipments were down 43.4 percent to 1.9 million units. IDC says that Asus has lost "momentum," and by the look of things, it could find itself out of the top five eventually if it can't turn things around.

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Where Did Huawei Come From?

Huawei has become the world's largest China-based smartphone maker, and now it's one of the world's largest tablet vendors. The company shipped 1.8 million tablets in the third quarter, up 147.9 percent compared with the same period in 2014. According to IDC, Huawei achieved such growth by delivering tablets that come with voice calling and targeting emerging markets where customers contend with "low broadband penetration."

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Tablet Owners Stretch Out the Upgrade Life Cycle

The tablet market's troubles are due in one respect to longer life cycles, IDC Program Director Ryan Reith argues. While years ago, consumers were buying tablets every one or two years to replace their current models, that life cycle has changed. Now, consumers are picking up new tablets every four years, making it harder for companies to appeal to customers in developed countries. It's a huge issue that's putting a strain on market shipments.

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Look for Hybrid Tablets to Be a Rising Market Force

Hybrids are one of the only device types to actually prop up the tablet market in the third quarter. In fact, IDC reported that shipments of these two-in-one devices, which have detachable keyboards that can notebook PCs into tablets, actually climbed in the third quarter. That said, these so-called "detachables" represented just single-digit percentage points of total device shipments. Looking ahead, "IDC expects this share to increase dramatically over the next 18 months," the company reported.

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Big-Screen Smartphones Affecting Tablet Sales

Another issue for tablets is the rising popularity of big-screen smartphones, or "phablets." IDC says that big-screen smartphones have started to cannibalize sales of small-screen tablets, thanks to their added functionality, such as their ability to make phone calls. Small slates were once an important driver for the tablet sales. Now, they're being ignored, IDC's data shows.

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The Coming Smartphone-PC Maker Vendor Battle

IDC says a battle is starting to brew in the tablet market. While smartphone makers have traditionally built tablets, with the influx of hybrids, PC makers are now seeing an opportunity. IDC believes that smartphone makers and PC makers will collide in the tablet market. Which group will win?

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The Market Is Simply Weak

All of this data comes down to one final point: The tablet market is extremely weak. During the third quarter, tablet makers shipped 48.7 million devices worldwide, a 12.6 percent decline compared with the same period in 2014. Furthermore, all other tablet makers after the top five saw shipments fall 9.6 percent. In IDC's estimation, the tablet market does not look like it's primed for a comeback in 2016. Those hybrids, however, could help boost an otherwise troubled marketplace.

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