It's been reported that worldwide tablet sales growth has been slowing over the last twelve months and the International Data Corporation, IDC, has released a report detailing anticipated sales over the coming five years. They've scaled back their projections to show the number of tablets shifted in 2015 is expected to be 234.5 million, a modest year on year growth of 2% from 2014. The market for tablets is still growing but it's growing at a slower rate. However, whilst the slowdown in growth is interesting, as is usual with these types of projections, it's what the IDC is expecting under the headline figures that's particularly interesting.
One of the identified trends is that smartphones are getting larger, which is impeding on the small tablet market. Late 2014 flagship devices have a typical screen size between 5.0-inch and 6.0-inch. Customers are seeking a compromise between portability, power and size: the small tablet was arguably something of a sweet spot in 2012 but in 2015, flagship smartphones have screens that are quickly approaching the small tablet market. Manufacturers are adding voice functionality to the smaller tablet models (like Huawei's MediaPad X2, blurring the boundaries between smartphone and tablet and often referred to as "phablet." Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst, said: "Despite the growing popularity of phablets, there still remains a portion of the market that wants to use a larger device so they can tailor their experience to the appropriate screen size. Meanwhile, an increasing number of vendors behind small tablets are reducing prices and adopting features like voice calling to entice consumers to purchase their products over competing phablets, making the dynamics of phablets vs voice-capable tablets an interesting one to watch."
At the larger tablet end of the scale, the IDC is expecting Android to remain the strongest operating system with iOS showing the weakest growth and a decline in market share. The IDC are expecting to see strong growth from the Windows end of the marketplace with market share expected to grow from 5% in 2014 to 14% in 2019. This belief in Windows is something of an IDC trademark, however for tablets, Windows makes a better case for itself. Newer versions of Windows have been significantly more capable on lower end hardware. Jean Philippe Bouchard, Research Director for Tablets, explains: "Microsoft is doing a lot of good things right now and we believe the launch of Windows 10 later this year will not only have a significant impact on Microsoft's share of the market, but on the industry as a whole. There is an appetite for a platform that can provide a productivity experience that remains consistent across multiple form factors and device types." In other words, bringing "proper computer" functionality to tablets is likely to drive tablet sales and it's here where Windows could make major gains.
We've already seen evidence that Google are working on some important changes to Android such as split screen multitasking, something that other vendors such as Asus and Samsung already manage. Microsoft's push into the tablet space should encourage Google to bolster Android's big screen functionality and we may even see Apple invent multi-window support for the iPad, too. Do you use a tablet and if so, what size? Why did you pick this size? Let us know in the comments below.