The worldwide media tablet market contracted in the first quarter of 2017 (1Q17) with total shipments of 36.2 million -- that's a year-over-year decline of 8.5 percent, according to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC).
The first quarter contraction marks the tenth straight quarter that tablets have experienced a decline over the same quarter a year earlier, with the previous five quarters recording double-digit drops. Meanwhile, the market for Google Chromebooks continues to rise, and phablets continue to gain market share.
Media Tablet Market Development
The tablet market is comprised of two different product categories. Devices offering a keyboard, which IDC refers to as detachable tablets, continue to grow. The other product category is slate tablets (those lacking this keyboard option), which saw shipments peak in 2014 and is now in a steep decline.
"As far as most are aware, the tablet market was created in 2010 with the launch of the original iPad, despite unsuccessful product attempts by other OEMs in the years leading up to this," said Ryan Reith, program vice president at IDC.
The rate at which the tablet market grew from 2010 to 2013 was unlike many other consumer-oriented device markets we've seen before. However, it now appears that tablet owners are less eager to refresh these devices. IDC says the leading driver for this was the increased dependency on smartphones.
At the same time that this roller coaster of tablet growth, peak, and decline was taking place, the personal computer (PC) market was experiencing the worst declines in the history of the product category.
IDC believes that a long-term threat to the overall PC lies in how the market ultimately settles on the detachable versus convertible debate. To date, detachable shipments have dwarfed those of convertibles, but growth of the former has slowed a bit.
In IDC's 2017 U.S. survey, fielded over the previous two months, detachable owners held slightly more favorable attitudes towards their detachables than convertible owners did for their convertibles. However, owners of both were far more likely to recommend a convertible over a detachable.
IDC's outlook is that detachables will continue to far outpace convertibles in shipments, but the market pendulum seems to be swinging back in favor of convertibles if ever so slightly. Still, the detachable market has proven it will move with major product launches and Microsoft and Apple have yet to launch their 2017 salvos.
Outlook for Media Tablet Growth
That being said, Apple experienced its thirteenth consecutive quarter of year-over-year shipment declines, despite being the tablet market leader in 1Q17. The continued weak results demonstrate that Apple is clearly not immune to the changing dynamics of the global PC and tablet industry.
In fact, 2016 was Apple's first full year of iPad Pro shipments, which included the launch of the smaller screen lower-cost 9.7 inch version. This product line quickly elevated Apple to the top of the growing detachable tablet market segment. The outlook for this market, however, is still somewhat unpredictable.