Tablet Sales Slow Down; Microsoft Struggles - InformationWeek

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10/16/2014
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Tablet Sales Slow Down; Microsoft Struggles

Tablets are losing some of their luster, but Apple is still selling more devices than Microsoft.

Apple's Next iPads: 13 Things To Expect
Apple's Next iPads: 13 Things To Expect
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

With Apple expected to announce new iPads this Thursday, many analysts have questioned whether the new devices will revitalize slowing tablet sales. Research firm Gartner added more fuel to the fire this week, announcing new data that shows tablet shipments have continued to decelerate.

Gartner's report reinforces questions about iPads' growth prospects, but the data's most troubling implications were reserved for Microsoft. Analysts expressed doubt that Windows Phone will become a significant smartphone player and forecast that most Windows growth will occur among low-cost devices in emerging markets.

Gartner expects worldwide tablet shipments to reach 229 million units this year, an 11% increase compared with 2013. But tablet shipments exploded 55% in 2013, which shows how quickly the industry's growth has slowed.

[Will device freedom while flying be short-lived? Read Flight Attendants Want Mobile Device Ban Reinstated.]

Several factors have contributed to the tablet slowdown. In a statement, Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal noted that tablet owners are waiting longer than expected to replace their devices. Many consumers buy new smartphones every couple of years, both because two-year carrier plans encourage regular upgrades, and because users carry smartphones at all times, which means new improvements are often more deeply felt. But tablets play a more specialized role in most users' routines, and many tablet owners have shown they'll go more than three years before upgrading.

Additionally, Atwal said some tablet users "are not replacing a tablet with a tablet." He noted increased sales of two-in-one devices such as Microsoft's Surface Pro 3. Earlier this month, both Gartner and fellow research firm IDC released data that indicates PC sales, which had been in freefall the last few years, have begun to stabilize. Some of the improvement owes to new device types, as Atwal noted, but some also involves Microsoft's end-of-service deadline for Windows XP, a move that forced millions of customers to buy new computers.

After exploding out of the gate, iPads sales have begun to slow.
After exploding out of the gate, iPads sales have begun to slow.

Gartner said tablet shipments are still on track to exceed shipments of desktop and notebook PCs by 2015. The firm projects OEMs will ship over 276 million traditional PCs this year, down from over 296 million last year. Tablet shipments are expected to hit 229 million. For 2015, Gartner expects desktop and laptop PC shipments to drop to 261 million units, with tablets swelling to around 273 million.

That said, Gartner expects "premium ultramobiles" -- a category that includes two-in-one hybrid PCs -- to grow as sales of traditional PCs decline. In addition to the 276 million desktop and laptop shipments Gartner expects this year, the firm also anticipates shipments of 37.6 million high-end ultramobiles. Analysts expect this category to amass more than 64 million shipments in 2015.

"The device market continues to evolve, with the relationship between traditional PCs, different form factor ultramobiles (clamshells, hybrids and tablets) and mobile phones becoming increasingly complex," Atwal noted.

Other recent data indicates two-in-one devices have carved out a niche in North America but are still outsold by not only iPads but also Apple's

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/22/2014 | 5:27:40 PM
Re: Stating the obvious
Apple has always made better products. They just weren't the products you wanted.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
10/22/2014 | 1:51:52 AM
Re: Tablets getting squeezed
@stevew: Makes sense to me.  Games and streaming video use much more energy/battery life than simple text editing and most other everyday work activities -- particularly because of the strain put on other hardware resources.

There is one relatively old but very graphically intense computer game I used to play that, if I play it today, can make my (very modern) laptop run at close to 80 degrees Celsius (even with an additional fan and an ice pack)!
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
10/21/2014 | 10:59:38 PM
Re: Stating the obvious
I used to be expressly anti-Apple -- simply because I, personally, hated every Apple product on the market.

Then Apple started making better products.

I still prefer PCs, but the company and its products have come a long way.
zaious
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zaious,
User Rank: Ninja
10/21/2014 | 1:53:13 AM
What a tablet can do and cannot
 In early years, we saw tablets in friends hand, operated for few minutes and decided to get one. We thought it to be the best solution for computing. Now, we know what tablets can do and its limitations as well. So, we can decide wisly if one of aour family member needs one or not. We got real about expectations. Now, people are well informed and can make their decisions after careful thoughts.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2014 | 1:16:02 PM
Re: Screen Size
That makes sense. iOS devices have all kinds of advantages in certain special use cases. Another friend of mine is a industrial designer, and he wants one so he can use it like a big tablet with a stylus. I was just curious. Thanks!

I'm trying to figure out if it might be a more niche product, or if there is more mainstream interest.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2014 | 1:11:38 PM
Re: Tablets getting squeezed
Yes, it certainly depends on how it is used. My iPad 2, as I mentioned earlier, goes like 12+ hours. But, when I used it that long, it was often web research, writing or taking notes in a text editor, reference materials, etc. And, while it was actually running that whole time, I wasn't actively useing an app 100% of that time either. (For example, I'd leave it run on the table during lunch, just to see if e-mails or message came in, etc.)

On the other hand, while I haven't timed it, I think my son can burn through the battery in maybe 6 hours. He's done that on some car trips, playing games and watching movies until it went dead.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2014 | 1:06:52 PM
Re: Tablets getting squeezed
Ahh, I see. That's something I didn't know about Andorid, though I know Apple seems to squeeze all sorts of extra stuff out of their hardware specs (when compared spec for spec).
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2014 | 1:01:56 PM
Re: Stating the obvious
Yea, I've not kept up on Android tablets too much recently, but the earlier ones might be a good part of the reason for the sales decline... they were horrible! A lot of people I know got them with everything from cell-phone contracts to cable-TV subscriptions, and they mostly ended up in junk drawers. Do you think those people will be buying another tablet soon? They've probably written them off as useless.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2014 | 12:58:50 PM
Re: Stating the obvious
They'd need a LOT more data to get those stats more accurate... and if that's just a few hundred IT people reporting about technology used in thier companies... then I'd think that's low, actually. How many companies don't have at least some Macs?

But, outside of companies and IT, have you been in a university classroom recently? I'd say Mac usage is well over 50% among future business folks. I follow a lot of entrepreneur, podcasting, etc. folks as well, and I think all but one use Macs. The corporate IT department isn't a good reflection of the rest of the world anymore at all.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2014 | 11:51:33 AM
Re: 2015
It may very well be. But after Microsoft came out with Win 7, the greatest Microsoft OS in some time, Apple sales rose an average of 30% per year until after the iPad came out. I think that what we're seeing is that Windows users now understand that they don't have to continue with Windows. For most people (well, almost everyone), Linux isn't a real option, and Chrome is ok for certainly low cost uses, but otherwise, Apple is the only other real choice.
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