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Tablets Tank for the First Time Ever

The tablet market experienced its first setback ever in the most recent quarter, falling year over year by more than 3 percent, according to preliminary data.

According to International Data Corp. (IDC), in the fourth quarter of 2014, overall shipments of tablets and 2-in-1 devices dropped to 76.1 million units worldwide, off from Q4 2013 by 3.2 percent.

"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," said Jitesh Ubrani, IDC's senior research analyst, Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, in a prepared statement. "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. 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."

Apple continued to dominate the market in the fourth quarter. Despite a 17.8 percent drop in unit sales, Apple's iPad accounted for 28.1 percent of overall shipments (21.4 million units). Its market share declined by exactly five points from the same period in the previous year.

"Apple's efforts to maintain iPad momentum have fallen flat so far as the latest generation of the iPad Air and mini offer very minimalistic upgrades over their previous versions," according to IDC. "Cannibalization at the bottom from the iPhone and at the top from the Mac appear to be a serious issue for the iPad."

No. 2 Samsung also took a heavy hit in unit sales, dropping 18.4 percent to 11 million units. Its share of the tablet market declined from 17.2 percent to 14.5 percent.

"Samsung was able to achieve its goal of 40 million tablets in 2014, up 1.1 percent from 2013. Samsung's Tab 4 series has been well received and its recent announcement to focus on mid-high tier tablets should help the bottom line though market share will likely continue to struggle," IDC reported.

Lenovo, in third place, was the only top-5 vendor to make positive gains in the quarter, up 9.1 percent to 3.7 million units. Its market share grew to 4.8 percent from 4.3 percent.

According to IDC: "Lenovo's portfolio depth is ideal. The vendor covers most screen sizes on both Android and Windows, allowing Lenovo to capture benefits of end users' shift towards larger screen sizes and productivity in general. While still niche, the AnyPen technology introduced at CES should become of feature spotlight of Lenovo's product roadmap in 2015."

Asus shipped 3 million units, a decline of 24.9 percent, and Amazon shipped 1.7 million units, off by a whopping 69.9 percent.

All other tablet vendors combined shipped 35.2 million units, up overall by 36.2 percent over the same period in the previous year. In terms of market share, vendors outside of the top 5 accounted for 46.2 percent of all unit shipments, up from 32.8 percent the previous year.

Despite the weak fourth quarter, worldwide sales for the full year were up 4.4 percent over the previous year, coming in at 229.6 million units.

IDC is continuing to predict growth for the current year as well.

"Despite an apparent slow-down of the market, we maintain our forecast about tablet growth in 2015," according to IDC's Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director, tablets. "Microsoft's new OS, a general shift towards larger screen form factor and productivity focused solutions, and technology innovations such as gesture interface that could be introduced in tablets will help the market maintain positive growth in 2015."

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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