The tablet category, after initial dominance by Apple, appears to be changing. A new report from industry research firm IDC points to slower growth in the first quarter of this year, a slight drop in market share for Apple's iPad, and a significant increase in Samsung's share.
The IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker measures both tablets and 2-in-1s, or hybrid laptop/tablets. Together, their shipments dropped more than a third from the previous holiday quarter and grew only 3.9 percent compared with the same quarter last year.
Tom Mainelli, IDC program vice president for devices and displays, said in a statement that "the rise of large-screen phones and consumers who are holding on to their existing tablets for ever-longer periods of time were both contributing factors to a weaker-than-anticipated quarter for tablets and 2-in-1s." He also noted that "commercial growth has not been robust enough to offset the slowing of consumer shipments."
Samsung Coming on Strong
Apple still leads, having shipped 16.4 million units in the quarter, which is down from 26 million units in the previous holiday quarter and also significantly below the 19.5 million units in the same quarter of 2013. Although the units sold was a lower number, Apple's market share only dipped slightly from 33.2 percent in the previous quarter to 32.5 percent.
But the more worrisome factor for Apple is that Samsung continues to come on strong, going from 17.2 percent last quarter to 22.3 percent in this quarter. IDC noted that Samsung is working "aggressively with carriers to drive tablet shipments through attractively priced smartphone bundles."
After Apple and Samsung, the remaining manufacturers in the top five were Asus at 5 percent, Lenovo at 4.1 percent and Amazon at 1.9 percent. Although Amazon's Kindle is perceived as a hit, its market share has actually dropped by 47 percent year-over-year, going from 3.7 percent in first quarter of 2013 to 1.9 percent in the most recent first quarter.
Lenovo's share has zoomed from 1.3 percent in Q1 of 2013 to 4.1 percent in this first quarter. Asus' has dropped slightly from 5.4 percent to 5.0 percent.
Android Still King
In terms of platforms, Android is still the king of this category. Additionally, IDC Research Tracker Jitesh Ubrani told news media that, "although its share of the market remains small, Windows devices continue to gain traction thanks to sleeper hits like the Asus T100, whose low cost and 2-in-1 form factor appeal to those looking for something that's 'good enough.' "
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, told us that he's "seen this movie before," when Apple was the leader in a category -- in that case PCs -- and saw its lead evaporate as multiple hardware makers released PCs at significantly lower prices.
In the case of this tablet category, he said that Apple is "slowly losing their grip on the market, [as] the best features migrate down the price point." Unless it does something like establish "a range of price points," including at the low end, Kay said he expects Apple will once again find itself "narrowed at the high end."