Tablet Shipments Will Dip This Year

The rate of growth in tablet devices has slowed in recent years, and is now actually going into reverse, according to a new forecast from Gartner, although growth will return in coming years. In fact, shipments of all types of devices (except mobile phones) are set to decrease at least temporarily in 2015, and total expenditures on computing devices will decline for the first time this year as a result.

Gartner predicts that total shipments of tablets and similar devices -- including the iPad,  Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5, and Acer Iconia Tab 8 -- will slip from 226 million units in 2014 to 214 million in 2015, before rebounding to 228 million in 2016.

Gartner attributes the dip in part to the tablet’s lower utility for most consumers compared to smartphones, with research director Robert Cozza noting: “The tablet has become a ‘nice to have’ device, and there is no real need for an upgrade as regularly as for the phone.” However, the return to growth in 2016 will help bring total tablet penetration in the developed world to half of households in the next few years.

Total shipments of mobile phones, including larger smartphones or “phablets,” will increase steadily, from around 1.88 billion units in 2014 to 1.94 billion this year, and then two billion in 2016; much of this growth is powered by the Chinese market, where smartphone prices continue to drop.

No surprise, shipments of traditional PCs will fall over the same period, from 277 million units last year to 251 million this year and 243 million next year. Gartner noted the PC sales overseas were probably hurt by the higher dollar.

However, the smaller category of “ultramobile” computers, including Apple’s MacBook Air and Microsoft's Windows 8 Intel x86 products, will rise from 37 million last year to 49 million this year, and 68 million in 2016.

Total expenditures on computing devices of all kinds will drop from $642 billion in 2014 to $606 billion this year, for a 5.7% decline year-over-year, but will recover somewhat to $617 billion next year.

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