Tablets’ Future May Hinge on Enterprise Success

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    The decline of the tablet is old news, but there is some hope as one chipmaker shows good results and a research firm sees a turnaround based on progress in the enterprise.

    In the short term, the bad news keeps coming. As Datamation reported, VDC Research predicts that the tablet market will contract by 2 percent this year. The reasons for the contraction have been noted before: pressure from large-sized smartphones (phablets) and longer “replacement cycles.”

    There is a ray of sunshine, though: VDC also sees enterprise tablet shipments growing 12.1 percent.

    VDC thinks that manufacturers have gotten the hint that the enterprise holds the key to future sales:

    Mobile-savvy businesses are increasingly outfitting their frontline workers with tablets, VDC observed. Tablet vendors have also noticed. ‘Developing new and higher value-adding opportunities, leading tablet vendors are increasing their focus on enterprise customers and designing solutions to meet the unique functionality and security requirements many of these customers require,’ stated VDC.

    However, more bad news for the tablet category overall comes from Taiwan. DigiTimes reports that IC design houses are acting on their belief that worldwide tablet demand could shrink by 10 percent to 20 percent next year. This year, Android-based tablet shipments could be less than 160 million units and could fall to 120 to 130 million next year.

    DigiTimes has identified an anomaly, though. It says that chip vendor MediaTek saw its chip shipments grow, and may reach 45 million this year. Putting the numbers together, that means that MediaTek could drive a quarter of the tablets sold this year. Though no reason for MediaTek’s uptick in sales is given, could it be that MediaTek is doing something to please the business subsector that the others aren’t?

    According to Wireless Week, a report from Strategy Analytics forecasts 7 percent growth for the tablet market next year. The report points to new tablets from Apple, Samsung and Microsoft. It also looks at 2-in-1 devices and indicates that there is good news on the elongated replacement cycle front:

    Over the past several years, growth in the tablet market slowed to a trickle as longer device replacement cycles have hindered sales. However, the report notes that the market will likely see a boost over the next one to four years as more than 700 million devices purchased in the tablet boom of the early 2010s age and come to the end of their life cycles. Tablets are also expected to take over a portion of the PC market as 2-in-1 tablets become a more accessible option for families.

    It’s obvious that the tablet business is changing and the misjudgment about likely replacement cycles suggests that the initial hype was overstated. In addition, early vendors missed another key element: The use case for tablets is far stronger in the business than consumer segment.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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