While tablet sales slowed in 2014, demand is expected to race ahead in 2015 with sales to first-time users being complemented by a rash of upgrades, as owners of older models replace their ageing tablets. Buyers in established markets will be joined by a new wave of users in emerging markets, to spark an increase in sales across the globe.
While Android remains the powerhouse of tablet sales, CCS Insight expects Windows to increase its share of the tablet market in the next two years. This will be down to a combination of Microsoft's investment in marketing, growing awareness of the Surface tablet and the attractive bundles of hardware and software.
Marina Koytcheva, CCS Insight's director of forecasting explains. "We expect Android to continue dominating the low end and midrange market, with Apple taking the lion's share of the high end. But Windows is gaining a bigger slice of the pie, albeit from a very low level, and should not be overlooked." Koytcheva continued, "Microsoft's decision to scrap its licence fee for Windows devices under nine inches is a major factor. It has given Windows fresh impetus, as it has spurred manufacturers to produce a better range of devices at a variety of prices — as low as $99 for HP's Stream 7, for example."
However, CCS Insight warns that Windows is not guaranteed success. "Microsoft still runs the risk of failing to convert the wide availability of cheaper Windows tablets into strong growth in unit sales before 2017," Koytcheva cautions. "Windows 10 will take time to make its mark, and developers will need a few months to perfect applications for the new platform. We expect Windows 10 to have little impact on tablet sales before late 2016." For Microsoft, tablet growth in the next couple of years depends on the performance of Windows 8 models. It will have to work hard to overcome the limited selection of consumer apps on these tablets. In addition, greater availability of Microsoft services like Office, OneDrive and Skype on rival platforms, especially iOS, will hinder potential adoption of Windows 8.
Beyond 2016, businesses will be key to the second wave of growth of the tablet market, and Windows 10 will play a major role. Increased focus from manufacturers, concentrating on personal productivity features and in particular hastening deployment of mobile enterprise applications will push more enterprises to consider tablets and "two in one" when replacing PCs.
Growing enterprise demand provides a potential benefit for Apple too. The strong focus on the business market and early signs of promise from Apple's relationship with IBM suggest the IBM deal is not Apple's last partnership in this area. And while the format and design of iPads in its current line-up appear strong enough to satisfy the demands of many consumers, Apple could very well be working on a productivity-focused device that combines work and play. If this proves correct, it will be another hurdle for Windows. Microsoft can ill-afford to stumble as it races to catch the tablet market leaders.
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