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Gartner Survey Indicates More Pain For Tablet Vendors

November 5, 2015 - Written By Kishalaya Kundu

Technology firm Gartner has recently published the results of a massive new survey that it conducted among 19,000 consumers across the U.S., UK, France, China, Brazil and India earlier this year to gain an insight into consumer behavior and their plans regarding future purchases of personal technology devices. Gartner says the study, titled “Notebook, Tablets, Hybrids, Phablets —Strategic Planners Need to Know What Devices Consumers Plan to Buy”, was conducted in the months of May and June this year, and the results of its findings reinforce the belief that the current downturn in the tablet market is not about to end any time soon, seeing as only 17 percent of the respondents apparently claimed they are planning to purchase new tablet within the next twelve months. The survey also found that in the US, over two out of three households already own a tablet, and over one in four own two or more.

As for the reluctance of consumers to buy a new tablet or trade in their old tab for a new one, Ms. Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner, said, “Tablet innovation is driven by applications rather than by the hardware. However, most applications work pretty well with first- and second-generation tablet hardware, and because the operating system (OS) can be upgraded for free, the user is not compelled to change the device. Users are less interested in the hardware and more interested in the applications and how devices using the cloud can interact with each other”. The results of the survey of course, would come as no surprise to people in the know about the state of the tablet market, seeing as just last week, IDC came out with its report on the state of the global tablet market, which showed a sharp 12.6 percent YoY decline in the number of tablets shipped in Q3, 2015, which represents the fourth straight quarter of negative growth for the market.

Expressing severe concern over the prevailing negative consumer sentiment regarding the acquisition of new tablets, Ms. Escherich said, “Unless new compelling innovation or incentives to upgrade tablets are created, the churn of the mature installed base will continue to fall. The worst-case scenario is that many tablet users will never upgrade or buy a new tablet as phablets and/or two-in-one convertible PCs (both with larger screen) envelop the benefits of a tablet. This scenario would result in real household penetration for tablets falling under 40 percent in mature markets”. As for emerging markets like China and India, the study found that the penetration level of tablets is significantly lower than in mature markets. The price-per-unit is also lower, compared to markets like the US and the UK. The final nail on the head of the shrinking tablet market seems to be ever-expanding size of smartphone displays, which is further reducing the demand for smaller 7-inch tablets, whereas larger tablets, while costing as much as full-fledged notebook PCs, are nowhere near as versatile, productive or powerful, meaning, tablets continue to be a fairly niche product category in emerging markets and are likely to remain that way in the foreseeable future.

Gartner’s survey also found that most respondents don’t want to change the form factor of their primary computation device any time soon, meaning, regular PCs continue to remain king irrespective of the desktop or the laptop form factor. Gartner also believes that the current hybrid devices are also confusing consumers, meaning, they’re pushing back their purchase decisions till there’s some amount of clarity on what to expect from the sector, and are not willing to pull the trigger unless they don’t have an option. According to Ms. Escherich, “Opportunities appear in the form of hybrids. Demand for this two-in-one form factor is generated by tablet owners and standard laptop users. The dissatisfaction with standard laptops comes from issues around battery life, weight and boot up times. Others see the versatility of a hybrid meeting the needs of a tablet and a notebook, especially with the benefit of a keyboard. It appears the traditional PC is no longer a compromised device compared with tablets or even smartphones and appeals to consumers in a new, more versatile form factor”.