While shipments of notebook PCs in the first quarter of 2014 were better than expected, due to the commercial PC refresh cycle and Windows XP migration, shipments of tablet PCs, at 56 million units, declined year-over-year for the first time, according to the NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report.
Several top brands reported weak tablet PC shipment results in Q1, partly as a result of new product launch delays, and as a result NPD DisplaySearch has lowered its forecast for tablet PC shipments in 2014 to 285 million units.
"Tablet PC demand in 2014 is being impacted by falling demand for seven-inch-class sizes in emerging regions and in China, where many local white-box brands have experienced lower-than-expected shipment growth," said Hisakazu Torii, vice president, smart application research at NPD DisplaySearch.
"Most major brands have recently reduced their business plans for 2014. There is a risk that the replacement cycle for tablet PCs will lengthen beyond the one to two year range unless brands can develop more attractive usage scenarios."
Driving the fall is competition from 5.5-inch-and-larger smartphones which compete against the 7 to 7.9-inch tablet PCs, and is expected to quell demand through 2018.
According to the report, unit share for 7 to 7.9-inch tablet PC displays peaked at 58 percent during 2013, and this now will gradually decline in 2014 and beyond. Big name brands are expected to transition to larger screen sizes, with shipments of 8 to 10.9-inch tablet PCs overtaking 7 to 7.9-inch tablet PCs by 2018.
Also, the report claims that 11-inch and larger tablets will exceed 10 percent of the market by 2018, and that larger screens will help bolster tablet PC profits.