Research firm IDC says the top-heavy tablet market experienced its first ever year-over-year decline in shipments during the fourth quarter of 2014.
Although the decline is nominal at 3.2 percent, it marks the most difficult quarter yet since the tablet market's inception in 2010, according to IDC's worldwide quarterly tablet tracker. On the flip side, shipments for the full year 2014 increased just over 4 percent to 229.6 million units.
Tablet market leaders Apple and Samsung, which IDC said are tasked with carrying the market forward each year, also felt the strain in 2014, with both manufacturers experiencing year-over-year declines.
Apple's tablet shipments decreased from 26 million in Q4 2013 to 21.4 million tablets in Q4 2014. The Cupertino powerhouse also saw its tablet market share fall from 33.1 percent to 28.1 percent.
As for Samsung, the Korean electronics giant saw its tablet shipments decline from 13.5 million to 11 million, while its market share decreased from 17.2 percent to 14.5 percent.
"Although Apple expanded its iPad lineup by keeping around older models and offering a lower entry price point of $249, it still wasn't enough to spur iPad sales given the excitement around the launch of the new iPhones," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior analyst for IDC's quarterly tablet tracker findings. "Meanwhile, Samsung's struggles continued as low-cost vendors are quickly proving that mid- to high-priced Android tablets simply aren't cut out for today's tablet market."
The vendors rounding out the top five under Apple and Samsung are Lenovo, Asus and Amazon.
While the top five nearly mirrors IDC's tablet shipment stats from Q3 2014, there is one notable difference. Amazon managed to steal the No. 5 spot from RCA, despite the fact that it recorded the steepest annual volume decline among the top five vendors. Holiday sales of Amazon's Kindle Fire line declined nearly 70 percent compared to last year, according to IDC.
Overall, IDC's results are hardly shocking. The research firm predicted that tablet sales would suffer in 2015. However, the outlook isn't totally grim, as IDC thinks the market could still grow, at least somewhat, thanks to the launch of Windows 10 and the potential introduction of a gesture interface into tablet design cycles.