Market-watcher IDC has published figures suggesting the tablet trend may be finished, pointing to a 15.6 percent decline in sales in the past year.
Previously, consumer interest in tablets has been blamed
for an ongoing - though slowing - five-year decline in sales of traditional desktop and laptop PCs, with IDC projecting that tablets would overtake traditional PC sales by 2015
. Now, though, it's the turn of tablet vendors to worry, with IDC's latest report pointing to a whopping 15.6 percent decline in sales for 2016.
Based on the company's preliminary figures, shipments of tablets - defined to cover both dedicated tablet devices and convertibles like the Surface family of half-tablet half-laptop portables - dropped from 207.2 million in 2015 to 174.8 million in 2016. For those keeping score, that's considerably below traditional PC sales for either year, with those accounting for 275.8 million and 260.2 million in 2015 and 2016 respectively for a 5.7 percent annual decline.
By far the biggest losers for the year were companies specialising in high-end, premium tablet products: Apple saw its shipments drop 14.2 percent for the year, while rival Samsung saw a 20.5 percent decline over the same period. Those offering products at the cheaper end of the market, by contrast, enjoyed a bumper year: Huawei's shipments jumped nearly 50 percent, though it still holds a minority 5.6 percent share of the overall market, while Amazon's Fire family of tablets shipped nearly double in 2016 compared with 2015 at a 98.8 percent growth rate.
'The sentiment around the tablet market continues to grow stale despite a lot of talk about vendors pivoting their product portfolios toward the detachable segment,
' opined Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers division, of his company's findings. 'Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard, which IDC refers to as slate tablets, are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions and, as a result, we see the decline happening globally. We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East & Africa as well as Central & Eastern Europe with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost. Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don't equate to large revenues.
Fuller figures are available from IDC's press release