The novelty factor seems to be wearing off tablets, with this segment expected to experience negative growth for the first time this year.
The tablet PC craze was spurred by the introduction of the iPad in 2010 with the popularity of tablets impacting notebook PC sales to such an extent that the latter stagnated and eventually began to fall as consumers increasingly switched to tablets.
Four years hence, prices have bottomed out in the tablet market with low-price notebooks stealing away the tablet market share. Caroline Chen, a notebook PC analyst with Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce, expects 153 million brand-name tablets will be shipped in 2014, a year-on-year decrease of 1.8%. Notebook shipments, on the other hand will increase 1% on year to 171 million.
Chen observes that a mature tablet supply chain mature and fast growing shipments have caused the retail price of tablets to fall sharply. She expects a long-term price war in the tablet market very soon.
Among the branded tablets, Apple will merely release a revised version of its iPad Air in the second half of the year. Samsung, another major player in the market, has only equipped high-end tablets under its own brand with its OLED screens, suggesting that the tablet market is flagging.
TrendForce data shows that while tablet shipments will rise in the second half of the year, the main reason that increase appears substantial is that shipments in the first half were so low.
The rising demand for tablet PCs and the rapid decline in the retail price of notebooks have caused the market for netbooks to almost vanish. However, demand for notebook PCs has started to rebound. Chen explains that notebooks have proven over time that they are irreplaceable; they offer larger screens than tablets as well as a keyboard and mouse, making them the ideal work tool, while tablets remain limited to Internet browsing and entertainment functions.
TrendForce believes notebook shipments will increase in the second half of the year for several reasons including fewer threats from the flagging tablet segment; continued demand for notebooks in the commercial market; and competitive pricing. All of these factors will contribute to boost notebook demand, giving brand-name manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard (HP), Lenovo and others room to grow this side of their businesses.
TrendForce estimates the global notebook PC market has the potential to expand 4-7% in the second half of 2014, reversing the trend of the last four years.