Can big tech firms revive the tablet market?

With Amazon releasing its budget £50 tablet, Apple unveiling its brand new iPad Pro and the Surface 4 no doubt around the corner, the tablet market could be back on the up. Jade Burke makes sense of the announcements…

Following the tablet boom a few years back, vendors have started to see a decline in sales. But can the big boys breathe new life into the sector, with the budget Amazon Fire tablet, iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro 4?

Amazon has just revamped its entire Fire tablet line with four brand new models, but most notably the new budget Fire tablet may be the most prominent release to date, as the etailer has priced it at a low £49.99.

But, will this lower price point damage the tablet market or help to revitalise it?

Many budget tablets have already previously launched, but as this new edition is from etail giant Amazon, it will no doubt be popular – and put tablets back on the map.

Compared to other models on the market, this price point could certainly cause some aggressive competition between vendors, as no doubt the cheap price will attract many consumers.

Marta Fiorentini, senior European research analyst at IDC, is unsure whether the pricing will make a difference. “Extremely low prices have been seen, but so far not helped rekindle consumers’ demand and encourage replacements,” she said.

“As penetration is now significant, the opportunity for first time buyers – who are more easily tempted by budget tablets – has reduced. Wearables, which are available at different price points, are also anticipated to divert some consumers’ Christmas budgets away from tablets.”

With the likes of Apple also set to launch a new edition to its tablet range with the iPad Pro in November, it seems that the tablet market still has the chance to revive itself, despite falling sales figures. It also comes with fresh specs and boasts new features, including a 12.9-inch display, a Smart Keyboard, and a $99 Apple Pen stylus, which may help to inject some excitement into the sector.

Although Amazon’s variant has been designed as a budget-friendly option for consumers, Apple’s offering comes with a premium price starting at around £600.

Geoff Blaber, VP at analyst CCS Insight, believes that the high price could be a hindrance to the market. “A premium priced iPad Pro is unlikely to dramatically impact volumes in a saturated tablet market,” he said.

“But the combination of enterprise partnerships as well as creative apps, plus new accessories, will extend the opportunity for Apple in business.”

Earlier this year analyst IDC reported that the worldwide tablet market had declined by seven per cent year-on-year during Q2 2015, but since then the analyst has found that the market is starting to bounce back, with sales beginning to stabilise.

Distributor VIP Computers has also revealed it will be releasing new Windows and Android tablets under its own Vortex brand.

Microsoft has also revealed its Surface Pro 4 hybrid-tablet, which features a a larger screen size of 12.3-inches, an updated keyboard and fingerprint reader.

Jeremy Davies, CEO and co- founder of Context, told PCR: “I think Microsoft has a huge potential winner on its hands with Windows 10 and Surface – they do span the gap between keyboard and screen quite nicely.”

The larger size of the Surface Pro 4 will no doubt help it compete alongside the likes of Apple’s larger iPad Pro.

Microsoft has also announced a move with Dell, which will begin selling the Surface Pro 3 to its enterprise customers. Historically Microsoft has been known to have a closed-off channel with its Surface devices, and this deal will see the firm reach more customers through Dell.

With this in mind, there is now a strong chance that the tablet market may recover and as more vendors begin to release innovative and improved devices, now could be the time we start to see the market get back on track.

Mehryar Hamid, senior account manager at GfK, concurs: “It is definitely good to see some high profile launches around the corner, as that could potentially reinvigorate what was once a key Q4 market.”

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