​Tablet shipments fall again in Q1: Netbooks the sequel?

IDC said that shipments for tablets and 2-in-1 devices fell 5.9 percent from a year ago in the first quarter to 47.1 million.

Tablet shipments fell in the first quarter from a year ago for the second consecutive time as the once-hot market begins to stumble, according to data from IDC.

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IDC said that shipments for tablets and 2-in-1 devices fell 5.9 percent from a year ago in the first quarter to 47.1 million. It's a bit premature to ask whether tablets are the next netbook-like flameout, but the question is certainly worth pondering.

This slowing tablet market is notable for a few reasons:

  • As noted repeatedly on Apple's recent earnings conference calls, sales of the iPad have slowed. CEO Tim Cook has noted that the iPad is being cannibalized by both the iPhone 6 Plus (a phablet) and MacBook Air (a laptop). Cook, however, argues that there's a lot of enterprise potential for the iPad. Also:Tim Cook's thoughts to investors on iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch
  • We don't really know what the upgrade cycle looks like for tablets or even if there will be one. It's possible that your tablet could be replaced by either a smartphone with larger screen or a laptop that can sometimes be used as a tablet similar to the Surface.
  • Tablets get voted off the backpack often. When traveling, you need your smartphone. You often need your laptop for real work. The tweener tablet can and does stay behind.
  • CIOs are looking to consolidate laptop and tablet purchases. It's unlikely employees will get both unless there's a bring your own device arrangement with smart tunneling to enterprise apps.

IDC's data highlights how cellular enabled tablets are outgrowing the market and 2-in-1 devices and detachables represent a small portion of the tablet market, but one with growth. Asus, Acer and Microsoft are pursuing 2-in-1 devices. It's worth noting HP's latest laptop lineup includes devices that can double as tablets. Lenovo is similar.

In fact, Lenovo is the few tablet vendors growing in the market. Lenovo has 2-in-1s like the Yoga and a bevy of inexpensive tablets.

Here's a look at the standings. The key points are that Apple's iPad needs a refresh, Samsung's volume is falling and Asus has lower growth in the first quarter, but launched its new Transformer lineup in mid-February.

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