updated 07:00 pm EDT, Thu May 1, 2014
Market analyst calls 2014 a 'challenging' year for tablets
Industry analysts IDC have produced its latest quarterly summary for the tablet market covering the the first fourth of 2014, and found that tablet shipment growth overall is rather anemic, with just a 3.9 percent increase from the year-ago quarter. The drop was led by a fall in shipments for the iPad, down 16.1 percent to just 16.4 million units, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has explained the sell-in drop as a shift inventory balance, meaning actual sales were down only slightly.
While it is still unusual for the iPad to see any contraction in growth at all, the company said it saw an extraordinary demand for iPads in the previous holiday quarter, when it sold some 26 million units. Cook said that the holiday demand caused Apple to overstuff the channel, leading to fewer sales to retailers and that in fact iPad sales were roughly flat from the year-ago quarter when the changes in inventory were accounted for. The worldwide shipments of all tablets fell 35.7 percent to 50.4 million units from the holiday quarter, with the drop being a bit more dramatic than anticipated for the normally-slower first calendar quarter.
Although its "sell-in" to retailers dropped, Apple's marketshare slipped only modestly, thanks to broad drops from most rivals. By shipments -- which do not have a direct relationship to "sell-through," otherwise known as actual sales to end-users -- Apple's iPad moved from 33.2 percent to 32.5 percent.
Samsung grew tablet shipments to 22.3 percent of the market, up from 17.2 percent a year ago. The Galaxy smartphone maker is said to be offering bundles that essentially give away tablets when customers sign up for one of the Korean company's flagship smartphones, such as the Galaxy S5, which is likely to be helping to cushion its tablet numbers.
While Samsung increased tablet shipments by 32 percent year-over-year, most other vendors saw drops in shipments. Notable among these was Amazon, where Kindle shipments are reported by IDC to have dropped by nearly half (47.1 percent) from the year-ago quarter. The online retailer is believed to have fallen to just one million in Kindle shipments from the year-ago quarter -- but Amazon is notoriously secretive about actual Kindle sales, and thus shipments are drawn from sell-in to retailers and guesstimates about direct sales. It is thought to be in about fifth place in terms of shipment marketshare, with 1.9 percent of the tablet market.
The remaining top five players in the tablet space are Asus with about five percent of the market, which saw shipments drop 2.8 percent year-over-year, and Lenovo with 4.1 percent share, up 224 percent from the year-ago quarter but still only shipping around 2.1 million units worldwide. IDC also includes "others," meaning any tablet-like device from the simplest child's toy or budget Chinese model to the flagship tablets of other competitors such as the Microsoft Surface 2, with a combined share of 34.2 percent, up 11.5 percent from a year ago.
It's believed that the combined "other" shipments totalled 17.2 million units, lower than Apple's 16.4 million units but slightly below the iPad's actual sell-through for the quarter, meaning that the iPad on its own sells better than all other tablet manufacturers (apart from the top four vendors) shipments combined. Ignoring the "other" category, Apple also outsold the other top four tablet makers' combined shipments.