Should we be preparing for a tablet requiem?

Tablets were once the must-have digital accessory. But as sales continue to decline, Maru/edr’s technology and media specialist – Sinclair Lawler – explores the reasons behind their drop in popularity and what it means for the future of the not-quite-laptop-not-quite-mobile device.

This is not an announcement of a sequel to Darren Aronofsky’s hard-hitting, millennial drugs fable, but an exploration into the ostensible death of the tablet.

The question is: do you still have – and crucially, still use – a tablet? If you do, I’d wager it’s the same device you bought in the early part of the decade. Great innovation when you first bought it. Yet so many months – and probably years – later you’ve not upgraded it. And that’s the heart of the matter.

Back in 2010, Steve Jobs saw the iPad as the ‘post PC era of computing’, yet Apple’s recent financial results saw a thirteenth straight quarterly decline in iPad unit sales from its record high of 18.6m in the first quarter of 2014.

Deloitte predict that in 2017, less than 165million tablets will be sold globally – 10% less than the previous year. Their research across fifteen mature economies discovered 28% of respondents were planning on buying a new smartphone in the next year, 25% a new desktop or laptop but only 16% who plan to purchase a new tablet device.

When we look to pinpoint the challenges tablets face, there are three recurring issues:

The ripple effect

This growing trend in declining tablet sales isn’t merely impacting the technology sector – although the clear effect on manufacturers is far greater than other brands.

Six years ago, once the popularity of the first generation of iPads had really sunk home, brands were faced with the dilemma of how to optimise site experiences for this growing in-between screen.

It formed the surge in popularity of responsive design. In 2012, Responsive Web Design was named the industry’s second most popular trend by .net magazine. Responsive design allowed brands to develop fluid sites that worked across devices.

It’s why mobile continues to drive improvements in overall digital experiences – as our preferences as consumers continually shifts towards mobile devices, brands are investing further in optimisation driving better digital experiences.

Leading digital experiences – such as John Lewis and Booking.com – both offer a better mobile experience than desktop, according to our latest research reports into the retail and travel industry*.

Impact in the technology sector

The tablet innovation wave has certainly influenced the future of laptops. What is evident is a generation raised on touch-screens are seeking and appreciating that functionality in laptops.

At CES 2017, 2-in-1 or hybrid laptops such as Dell’s XPS 13 came of age. 2-in-1 is a multi-functional device that works as a tablet and as a laptop. Microsoft’s Surface line is a prominent example of what we are looking at here. And Samsung’s latest Galaxy tab launched this week looks to do exactly this.

It means for retailers, airlines, restaurateurs – in fact, any brand with a digital presence – the importance of fluid, responsive experiences across screens of all shapes and sizes is here to stay.

So while the popularity of tablets may have peaked, the impact they’ve had across all sectors and industries will be felt for years to come.

* Download Maru/edr’s retail and travel benchmarks now. To find out more about the insight solutions we are offering, schedule a personalised demonstration with one of Maru/edr’s industry experts.    

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Sinclair Lawler is the media expert at Maru/edr, working on Voice of the Customer solutions for the TMT industries. Connect with him on LinkedIn or email him directly at Sinclair.Lawler@maruedr.com 

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