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Report: Tablets Decline in 3rd Quarter

Worldwide tablet sales dropped 5.4 percent in the third quarter of this year compared to the same period last year, despite increased sales for four of the top five vendors of the devices, according to a new report from International Data Corp. (IDC).

Increased demand for smartphones, a lengthening replacement cycle for tablets and an improving position for traditional PCs has left the devices in a tough position, according to the company.

Apple led the market segment with 10.3 million shipments and 25.8 percent of the market. That's up 11.4 percent from 9.4 million sales and 21.9 percent of the market during the same period last year.

"Although Apple still enjoys a substantial premium over competitors, the lower-priced iPad has helped it to cement the first-place position," according to an IDC news release. "The latest version of iOS has helped make iPads a more serious PC competitor than ever before but the need for legacy apps (especially in the commercial segment) and strong value offerings from other PC and mobile vendors has prevented iPads from becoming the primary computing device for the masses."

Samsung was the only top-five tablet vendor to see a reduction in shipments, falling from 6.5 million units to an even 6 million, though the 7.9 percent year-over-year drop did not stop the company's market share from increasing from 15 to 15.4 percent.

"Samsung offers one of the broadest range of detachable tablets that includes multiple screen sizes and operating systems yet detachable tablets account for less than 10 percent of its shipments in the quarter," according to information released by IDC. "These high-priced, halo devices have led to Samsung's premium image but the company still relies heavily on the lower cost Tab A and E series. This may create long-term issues as rival tablet vendors often offer products at a better value."

"In a recent IDC survey, owners of both convertibles and detachables stated they were far more inclined to recommend a convertible to another shopper than a detachable," said Linn Huang, research director of devices & displays at IDC, in a prepared statement. "Market momentum has steadily shifted away from the latter towards the former over the course of this year. The 2017 holiday season may prove to be a critical crossroad for the detachables category."

Amazon held the third spot, improving sales from 3.1 million shipments in the third quarter of 2016 to 4.4 million in the most recent period. That growth lifted the company's market share from 7.5 percent to 10.9 percent.

"'s aggressive hardware strategy in the tablet market has proven to be quite successful as the company managed to grow 38.7 percent on an annual basis," according to a news release. "The low-cost hardware push has always been a means to create a long-standing and ongoing relationship with end users. To that extent, Amazon even offered the 7-inch tablet for under $30 during the Prime Day Sale."

Huawei and Lenovo, with 3 million shipments each, tied for the fourth spot and held market shares of 7.5 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.

"Huawei and Lenovo managed to tie for fourth place as both companies have maintained a similar strategy of focusing on low-cost devices in Asia/Pacific and Western Europe," according to IDC. "Huawei has managed to maintain some differentiation by concentrating on cellular-enabled tablets while Lenovo recently launched the Tab 4 lineup, which offers competitive specs and features at a great value."

All other vendors saw a collective year-over-year decline in shipments of 26.3 percent, falling from 18.1 million devices sold during last year's third quarter to 13.3 million during the same period this year.

"There's a penchant for low-cost slates and this holds true even for premium vendors like Apple," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, in a prepared statement. "However, many of these low-cost slates are simply long-awaited replacements for consumers as first-time buyers are becoming harder to find and the overall installed base for these devices declines further in the coming years."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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