No one can yet say if the aberration is temporary, but according to Best Buy CEO, Hubert Joly, tablet sales appear to be heading south, and have been going in that direction for the last several months. He has noted a parallel with development and eventual decline in the sale of netbooks that were introduced seven years ago. Netbooks were meant to be a bridge between desktop computers, and were smaller, lighter and more portable than laptops. The operating systems were usually reduced versions of Windows XP or Linux, and the architecture was usually based on the ARM instruction.
Initially, tablets were loved by those who had little use for heavy processing power. They were great for surfing the web, checking email, listening to music or sharing photos and videos. The disadvantages were tolerated, but the market and circumstances changed rapidly. In the following years, batteries with longer lives came on the market and the love affair began to wane, as there was little support for the apps that began to proliferate. Other reasons cited for the decline, included more emphasis being placed on improving laptops, and then came the iPad. The transformation was dramatic and in 2012, it forced two of the biggest producers to discontinue the manufacturing netbooks, Acer and Asus, both of Taiwan.
The premise that tablet sales heading south is intriguing given the success of the iPad that changed the computing industry, but Hubert Joly explains that the sales have declined, while the market for desktop PCs has increased. The reasons cited are that laptop computers are now much more versatile and as support for Windows XP has ended, users are opting in to Windows 8.1. The hybrid tablet or 2-in-1 option may also appear to be favored as users, such as students, can have both a tablet and a laptop in one device.
Although it is not readily acknowledged, especially by ardent Apple fans, there are a few noted disadvantages with the iPad, especially with the first iteration that could not be opened. There was no support for data input, as the virtual keyboard was not introduced until later. The market also appears to be fragmented, and customers have no reason to upgrade, as there has been no major advance in the last several years. User will normally buy one tablet, and have no reason to buy another.
Both Apple and Samsung are experiencing declines in tablet sales, ad forecasts are being revised downwards. According to market research firm, International Data Corporation, Samsung’s share of the tablet market continues to shrink, and the growth in tablets is now expected to be lowered to be no more than ten percent that will come not from brand names, but from cheaper priced, unbranded products.
As the tablets sales appear to head south, and iPad continues to struggle, smartphones are proliferating and the decline may only be hastened with the coming introduction of the new iPhone, which is expected in a few months. It may not be too late, but with some innovation, such as more powerful chipsets, which add more processing power may save the day for tablets.
By Dale Davidson