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While iPad sales slip, Windows tablets are about to take off: IDC

According to IDC's five-year forecast for tablets, the market is expected to stay stagnant, thanks to rising competition from phablets. The one victor in the report? Windows.

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Compared to Apple and Android, Windows tablets are typically thought of as the runt of the litter, at least in terms of sales. But the latest report by the International Data Corporation (IDC) finally gives the Microsoft operating system something to brag about.

According to the IDC’s five-year forecast for tablet sales, Windows will be the only mobile operating system to break from the pack and flourish in an otherwise stagnant market.

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The overall tablet market has suffered (and apparently will continue to suffer) in the face of the rising popularity of phablets, which give customers the big screen of a tablet, with the call capabilities of a phone. After the tablet market experienced its first year-over-year decline in worldwide shipments in the fourth quarter of 2014, IDC “scaled back” its forecasts for tablet sales.

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Even though the research company expects a 2.1 percent year-over-year growth rate from 2014, with the entire tablet industry moving 234.5 million units this year, the future is rather dim. By 2019, IDC expects that total market sales will reach 269.4 million tablets, anticipating positive but slow growth.

"Despite the growing popularity of phablets, there still remains a portion of the market that wants to use a larger device so they can tailor their experience to the appropriate screen size," says Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, in a press release. "Meanwhile, an increasing number of vendors behind small tablets are reducing prices and adopting features like voice calling to entice consumers to purchase their products over competing phablets, making the dynamics of phablets vs voice-capable tablets an interesting one to watch."

While Windows tablets held only 5.1 percent of the market in 2014, IDC predicts that Microsoft will end 2015 snagging 7 percent of all tablet purchases. But the real forecast victory for Windows is the leap to 14.1 percent of the market in 2019 by moving around 38 million units, more than double the predicted sales for 2015. 

Why such a big leap? IDC expects the launch of Windows 10 to drive tablet sales.

“Microsoft is doing a lot of good things right now and we believe the launch of Windows 10 later this year will not only have a significant impact on Microsoft’s share of the market, but on the industry as a whole,” Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director for tablets, says in the same release.

IDC includes hybrid or two-in-one devices in the tablet category, one big reason that Microsoft is expected to grow, and one of the reasons Apple may suffer. 

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Currently, iOS tablets hold 27.6 percent of the market. By the end of 2015, IDC believes that number will drop to 25.6 percent, and by the time 2019 rolls around, Apple’s share will fall to 23 percent.

Apple has the most stagnant sales of the bunch. In 2014, the company moved 63.4 million iPads, but this year it is expected to sell 60.1 million units before inching up to 61.9 million sales by 2019. Though after its “Spring Forward” event, the tech giant has other devices distracting it from the bad news.

Android is predicted to keep its No. 1 spot in tablet sales through 2019, but with rather sluggish growth.

The Google operating system maintained its stranglehold on the market in 2014, moving 154.7 tablets and carrying 67.3 percent of the market. But things are looking a little shaky further down the IDC timeline. In 2015, Android is only expected to grow by 0.1 percent, and by 2019, its share of the tablet market is expected to slip to 62.9 percent. 

Though Android tabletmakers are predicted to move 169.5 units in 2019, compared to the 154.7 million tablets they sold last year, it will begin to feel pressure from the rising star, Windows.


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