The number of people using touchscreen tablets will decline in the coming year.
This according to analysts at ABI Research, who say that the tablet sector is running out of new buyers, and will soon face its first ever decline in use.
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"The global installed base of branded tablets will peak around 373 million units at the close of 2015," predicts Jeff Orr, research director with ABI.
While the growth of tablet sales has been dropping across the board for several quarters running, vendors have still been able to shift devices to new customers. Leading vendors including Apple and Samsung have seen their sales lose momentum as the shipments of new tablets have slowed.
In the coming year, however, ABI says those slow sales will begin to erode the install base as well. According to the crystal-ball gazers, what was a 25 per cent annual growth in 2013 will erode to just four per cent this year, and turn to a decrease of two per cent in 2016 – meaning fewer people using the things.
The big reason for the decline, say analysts, is the growing appeal of other form factors. People who once owned tablets are now opting instead to get smaller phablet handsets on one end and more powerful and versatile 2-in-1 notebooks on the other.
This in turn leaves a shrinking market for those who want to purchase a full-sized tablet, and makes the development of unique apps and media content more important to vendors looking to hold onto their user base.
Of that dwindling install base, ABI sees a fairly even split of operating systems, with Android leading the way at 50 per cent and the iPad's iOS second with 42 per cent. That figure wouldn't be such bad news for Apple, who would also be able to claim 42 per cent of the hardware market. North America is expected to be the top tablet market, accounting for 48 per cent of the expected install base.
Orr noted that the drop doesn't necessarily mean tablet usage will erode at a steady rate after 2016, never to bounce back. He said that a number of factors ranging from a new class of cheaper slabs that sell in greater numbers, and are replaced more often, could still turn things around and put tabs back to annual growth. ®