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Global tablet shipments poised for decline in '14 as fever cools

TAIPEI -- Tablet computers, a product category that first emerged in 2010, will see an annual decline in global shipments this year for the first time as their novelty seems to have worn off and prices have bottomed out, according to a local research firm.

Global shipments of brand-name tablets are expected to drop by an annual 1.8 percent this year to 153 million units, recording negative growth for the first time, TrendForce said in a research note earlier this week.

“When Apple Inc.'s iPad was launched in 2010, it was an instant hit and spurred a tablet computer craze,” said Caroline Chen, an analyst at TrendForce, adding that the iPad even squeezed sales of laptop computers.

“Tablets have been revolutionary in the sense that they have created demand for a new product category — one that competes fiercely with netbooks and regular laptop computers,” Chen said.

Low-priced notebooks are stealing the market share of tablets, she said, predicting that global laptop computer shipments will increase 1 percent annually to 171 million units this year.

“Time has shown that notebooks are irreplaceable,” Chen said. “They offer larger screens than tablets, as well as a keyboard and mouse, which are all important for those who use their computers primarily for work reasons, while tablets remain limited to Internet browsing and entertainment functions.”

Global laptop computer shipments will increase in the second half of the year, on the back of a flagging tablet market, consistent demand for commercial laptops and their “very competitive” prices, according to Chen.

The global laptop computer market has the potential to expand 4-7 percent in the second half of the year, reversing the annual slowing demand for the first time in years, the analyst said.

Research firm WitsView held a similar view, saying that tablets have lost their appeal to consumers and are losing market share to competition from phablets and low-pricetd laptop computers.

Apple's iPad might experience its first shipment decline this year since entering the market in 2010, as Apple is unlikely to hold any major promotional or sales events for the product, the research firm said in a report in July.

Global shipments of iPads are expected to drop from 74.3 million units in 2013 to 68.4 million untis in 2014, despite new model launches expected in the second half of the year, the report said.

Taipei based Digitimes Research said, meanwhile, that the global tablet computer market is becoming saturated, showing a similar pattern to the markets for notebook computers and digital cameras.

In addition, 4G smartphones and wearable devices are likely to squeeze tablet sales in the second half of the year, according to the institute.

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