Has tablet boom gone bust? 4Q sales drop for first time

Quarterly sales of tablet computers fell for the first time since the tablet boom began in 2010, according to a new report from research firm IDC.

Tablet shipments totaled 76.1 million units in the fourth quarter of 2014, down 3.2 percent from the 78.6 million units shipped at the same time last year, IDC said Monday. While this was the first year-over-year decrease, tablet sales have been stagnating for some time now, as consumers are slow to replace older models and have embraced larger-screen phones.

The decline was even more stark when broken down by company: iPad shipments were down 17.8 percent for Apple; Samsung’ shipments were down 18.4 percent; Asus was down 24.9 percent; and shipments of Amazon’s Fire tablets plunged a stunning 69.9 percent during the quarter that included the busy holiday shopping season. Of the five largest tablet makers, only Lenovo saw a year-over-year increase, up 9.1 percent.

“The tablet market is still very top heavy,” IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani said in a 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.”

Still, overall tablet shipments were up 4.4 percent for the entire year, and IDC says Microsoft’s new Windows 10 and new gesture-control technology should boost sales this year. “Despite an apparent slow-down of the market, we maintain our forecast about tablet growth in 2015,” Jean Philippe Bouchard, IDC’s research director of tablets, said in a statement.


At top: The new  iPad Mini 3, left, and iPad Air 2 were unveiled in October during an Apple event in Cupertino.  (GLENN CHAPMAN/AFP/Getty Images)


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  • Robert Derman

    What amazes me is that tablets sell as well as they do. When you compare the prices of tablets and full feature laptops, the tablets just don’t seem to be a good buy. My belief is that the tablets are a passing fad, that better smartphones will replace them with those who have very modest computing needs, and those who thought that they could get by with the compact and lightweight tablets are finding them to be just too limiting when compared to laptops which cost no more, and often less, and really aren’t all that much less portable.