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Tablet market under pressure

The tablet form factor finds itself in a difficult position as shipments continue to fall and rival technologies emerge

Tablets were in strong demand during the pandemic, used by workers and students to carry on being productive, but such devices have seen demand fall away from those peaks.

The form factor could also be facing tougher competition in the commercial space as PCs and laptops make further technological advances.

The latest analysis of the worldwide tablet and Chromebook market from Canalys makes interesting reading for those channel players that are hoping for a seasonal lift to the back end of the year on those form factors.

The second quarter saw worldwide declines of 11% in tablet shipments, which came on the back of a poor first quarter, with a 13% drop, and took the market to its lowest volume of products being shipped since the first quarter of 2020. Chromebooks fared better, with a 1% increase, thanks largely to demand from education helping drive orders.

On the tablet front, Apple still leads the pack, with rival Samsung in second position in terms of market share. Amazon and Lenovo take up the other two slots in the top four.

Canalys expects the market to improve in the second half because of seasonal factors, but in the long term, the dominance that tablets enjoyed in offices and boardrooms might be challenged.

“Although demand for tablets has dropped from the highs of the pandemic, it remains relatively resilient,” said Himani Mukka, research manager at Canalys.

“With the PC and smartphone markets also under threat, vendors selling tablets have an additional tool to help target pockets of opportunity in consumer, commercial and education sectors. The market will receive a boost from seasonally stronger demand in the second half of the year, with vendors continuing to launch new products, adopt aggressive go-to-market strategies and drive promotional activity,” she added.

“However, on the commercial front, it appears that the productivity gap between tablets and PCs is set to widen. With Intel and AMD setting roadmaps for the development of ‘AI PCs’, the future ability for tablets to serve as notebook replacements could be diminished as AI functionality becomes increasingly important to worker productivity,” said Mukka.

On the Chromebook front, that improvement in shipments came after seven quarters of decline and should help change the narrative in that market. Education spending in the US was largely responsible for helping turn things around, but many of the government schemes that have supported spending are coming under strain and might not be a feature of the market for much longer.

In terms of vendor market share rankings, HP held top spot, with 10% growth in the second quarter, followed by Lenovo, which also experienced growth, and then Dell, which suffered a decline in the quarter.

The reliance on education spending, for both Chromebooks and tablets, is often the Achilles heel for the form factors, and the story this time last year was a similar one as the market had not been able to lift shipments into growth.

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