Are tablets dying?

There’s no doubt that tablet sales are in the doldrums. Recent research from IDC claims that sales have fallen 12.6% between the third quarter of 2014 and the same period this year. That’s not a new phenomenon, either – research from Forrester suggests that the global tablet market has plateaued, and a July report from ABI Research estimated that tablet sales in the first quarter of 2015 were 13% down on Q1 2014.

Are tablets dying?

Business isn’t bad across the board, though – far from it. The two market leaders are struggling most, with iPad sales down by 19.7% and Samsung tablet sales down by 17.1%, according to IDC. ABI sees the biggest players hit even harder, claiming a 23% decline for iPads and a 30% decline for Samsung back in the first half of the year. That’s not good news for them, but some of the smaller players are growing. LG, Lenovo and Huawei are all doing well by finding their niche, whether it’s competing hard at lower price points or, in Huawei’s case, concentrating its efforts on 3G-/4G-enabled tablets.

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All the same, the signs are worrying. The burning question is whether we’re simply witnessing the hype finally dying down, thus leaving the tablet to find its natural place.

Why are tablets struggling?

When the iPad emerged in 2010, tablets were widely seen as the disruptive force that would herald a post-PC world. By 2011, analysts from Gartner, Forrester and IDC predicted massive sales, with the more excitable ones predicting that tablet sales would eclipse laptop sales by 2015. Yet while PC sales remain poor, tablet sales have also stopped growing, even fallen into decline. Apple’s earnings call for fiscal Q3 2015 showed that revenue from the iPad business was lower than revenue from its Mac business – the first quarter in several years where this was the case – and the trend only continued in Apple’s Q4 2015 results, with the Mac family generating 61% more revenue than the iPad.

So, why is the superstar device of recent years on the wane? Analysts generally put it down to three core factors. 

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