Tablet sales are about to decline for the first time

WitsView, a Chinese-based market research firm focused on the LCD panel supply chain, predicts that the global tablet shipments are expected to see their first decline in five years at the end of 2014 due to a number of reasons.

The China Post reports that in a recent research note, WitsView predicts global shipments of tablets will decrease by 1.8 percent on a year-over-year basis, to 153 million units at the end of 2014. At the same time, laptop shipments are expected to rise 1 percent YoY to about 171 million units this year.

The balance of power for some time has been between laptops and tablets, with tablets eating into the laptop space in many usage scenarios. WitsView said that global tablet shipments have been growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 250 percent since they hit the market in a big way in 2011.

The slowdown has begun already, with 56 million tablets were shipped worldwide between January and March this year, down from 59 million one year ago, according to a report by NPD DisplaySearch. WitsView thinks the slowdown will continue thanks to new notebooks, smartphones of 5.5 inches and larger and delays in some tablet releases.

WitsView cites expanding smartphone screen sizes as putting pressure on tablets as well. Smaller tablets tend to be more popular than the larger ones, and IDC predicts the 7-inch tablet will be dominant in another year. So small tablets are liable to feel the pressure of phablets, especially now that Apple is in the game with the iPhone 6 Plus. Another reason for declining sales, said the firm, is consumer fatigue and falling notebook PC prices are encouraging consumers to look at notebooks again.

Chen Hong-yen, an analyst at WitsView, told China's Economic Daily that laptops continue to be popular due to larger screen sizes and the convenience of peripherals such as keyboard and mouse, by contrast to the tablet's major functions in multimedia playback and Internet access. Thanks to growing consumer demand, Chen forecast that global notebook PC shipments will continue to grow by 4 percent to 7 percent year-over-year in the latter half of 2014.

The China Post also said that increasing demand for laptops has major contract notebook assemblers in Taiwan like Quanta Computer, Compal Electronics, Wistron Corp., Inventec Corp. and Pegatron Corp. have been receiving an increasing number of orders from global customers.

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