Off-brand tablets look done, but big players are growing

And heeeere comes Amazon with its crazy low prices

The tablet computer market is sinking even as the fortunes of its main protagonists rise.

That's the findings of analyst firm IDC's new Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker for 2017's third quarter. IDC counts keyboardless tablets and devices like the iPad Pro or Surface Pro that have a detachable keyboard as tablets.

The firm's headline number is 40 million – the quantity of tablets shipped in the 90 days from July 1st to September 30th. That's down 2.3 million compared to 2016's third quarter, hardly a pleasing result.

Yet four of the five top tablet-makers will find that result pleasant, because their sales rose at the expense of “other” tablets. Here's the tale of the tape:

Vendor 3Q17 Unit Shipments 3Q17 Market Share 3Q16 Unit Shipments 3Q16 Market Share Year-Over-Year Growth
Apple 10.3 25.80% 9.3 21.90% 11.40%
Samsung 6 15.00% 6.5 15.40% -7.90%
Amazon 4.4 10.90% 3.1 7.50% 38.70%
Huawei 3 7.50% 2.5 6.00% 18.80%
Lenovo 3 7.40% 2.7 6.50% 8.90%
Others 13.3 33.30% 18.1 42.80% -26.30%
Total 40 100.00% 42.3 100.00% -5.40%

IDC attributes the overall slump in sales to “Growing demand for smartphones combined with the lengthening replacement cycle of tablets and strengthening position of traditional PCs”. Those factors have “left the tablet market in an awkward middle ground that it has not been able to escape.”

Buyers remain keenest on cheap kit, the firm says, which is why Amazon has done so well. Price is also helping Huawei and Lenovo, especially in Asian markets.

IDC doesn't offer an opinion about the slump in “other” brands, so The Register will: we reckon some small brands have exited the market, others look less attractive as the big brands innovate, and the market for tablets aimed at vertical industries may be getting saturated.

Whatever the reason for the sales dip, tablets remain more than a third of the market for non-phone client devices, as 67m PCs shipped last quarter . Smartphones, however, now sell at more than 250 million a quarter, making them by far the most prolific computing device in terms of sales. ®

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