The consensus among analysts appears to be that 2014 was a terrible year for tablet sales, but opinions seem to differ over the outlook for the mobile devices in 2015.
According to a report emailed to FierceWireless:Europe by CCS Insight on Wednesday, demand is expected to pick up in 2015, as tablets bought in late 2011 and in 2012 begin to need replacing. "We expect sales to reach 283 million units worldwide, up 28 per cent from 2014," the company said.
CCS Insight's prediction contrasts with a recent forecast from Gartner, which expects demand to remain slow in 2015 after a difficult year in 2014. The company predicts that worldwide tablet sales will reach 233 million units in 2015, an 8 per cent increase from 2014.
Such diverging views reflect how difficult this market is to assess, although both analysts groups agree that sales grew more slowly in 2014 compared to previous years. CCS Insight said global shipments are expected to have reached 221 million units in 2014, up 9 per cent on 2013. Gartner put sales at 216 million in 2014.
CCS Insight said it also expects to see continued growth of the tablet market between 2016 and 2018, driven by further adoption and by replacements. "The greatest mass of tablets--bought in 2013--are likely to be replaced in 2016, boosting demand in developed markets. In 2018, almost 540 million tablets will be sold worldwide," the company said.
Meanwhile in a separate report, CCS Insight also said the biggest theme to emerge at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was the "acute commoditisation of the smartphone, a trend we have previously observed in tablets."
The company said the lack of interest in new smartphones and tablets was "palpable" at the event, with some smartphone manufacturers gazing at empty stands even at peak times during the show.
The challenge for manufacturers is to offer products with some level of differentiation, but this is proving to be increasingly difficult. CCS Insight noted that possible areas for differentiation include cameras and displays, such as curved screens.
"Our overall conclusion from the show was that it is becoming harder than ever for established manufacturers to differentiate their smartphones and tablets from those of fast-growing rivals," CCS Insight commented.
The company said a "small glimmer of hope" is that the PC industry appears to be staging a small revival, and cited hybrid tablet devices as well as new products such as HP's Sprout as examples of innovation.
"This may indicate that although the smartphone segment is suffering a period of limited innovation and differentiation, things could change as new disruptive technologies emerge," the company concluded.
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