Tablet shipments decline for first time

SAN FRANCISCO – Worldwide tablet shipments witnessed a year-over-year decline in the final quarter of 2014 for the first time, according to market analysts International Data Corporation, or IDC, in a report published Monday.

Global tablet shipments for the entire year actually increased moderately, but the market’s weakening during the fourth fiscal quarter, which takes place over the traditionally strong holiday season, is a troubling indication for the device.

IDC claims that shipments for tablets and two-in-one devices, like the Microsoft Surface which can function as either a tablet or a laptop, reached 76.1 million units for the final quarter of last year, a 3.2 percent decline compared to the same quarter in 2013.

For all of 2014, 229.6 million tablets were shipped – a 4.4 percent rise from the previous year.

"The tablet market is still very top heavy in the sense that it relies mostly on Apple and Samsung to carry the market forward each year," Jitesh Ubrani, the senior research analyst for IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, said in a release.

Apple essentially created the tablet market in 2010 with the release of the iPad. IDC contends that Apple commands more than a quarter of the entire tablet market and lacks a true challenger from Samsung or others.

But Apple’s iPad sales have flattened. Analysts at IDC attribute the slowdown to a lack of innovative improvements to the latest additions to the iPad Air line.

“Although Apple expanded its iPad lineup by keeping around older models and offering a lower entry price point of $249, it still wasn't enough to spur iPad sales given the excitement around the launch of the new iPhones,” Ubrani continued. “Meanwhile, Samsung's struggles continued as low-cost vendors are quickly proving that mid- to high-priced Android tablets simply aren't cut out for today's tablet market.”

The latest report might hint at one quarter’s misstep instead of downward spiral, though. With the newly reinvigorated Windows 10 operating system aimed at tablets and larger screens to make tablets more like laptops, IDC believes the market will grow throughout 2015.

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