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Tablet installed base escalates quickly even as sales stall out: Forrester Research

While the tablet market has plateaued, usage is expected to continue to grow, with company-owned tablets escalating at a much faster rate than the overall market, according to a new report from Forrester Research.

The report, Global Tablet Forecast 2015 To 2018: Despite Market Volatility, Tablets Are Big In Business, forecasts 682.28 million people will be using tablets worldwide by 2016 and 781.62 million by 2018. Sales will grow more slowly, topping 229.46  million units in 2016 and 249.95 million units by 2018. 

?Tablet market shipments - which you hear a lot about in the press during quarterly earnings calls from Apple and other vendors - have hit a serious plateau,? said J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, as well as author of the report. ?What you don?t hear about as much is the fact that, simultaneously, the installed base of users has increased and continues to increase sharply.?

Tablet strategy?
The research company urges businesses to formulate a tablet strategy as part of a greater effort to build a mobile strategy for both employees and customers. This should include considering those mobile moments when employees or customers can get what they want in their immediate context and moments of need. 

Business makes up a growing percentage of tablet buyers, with the most sophisticated organizations redesigning specific workflows and business processes to take advantage of the portability and ease of use associated with tablets. 

More than half of information workers already use tablets for work, per the report.

Forrester forecasts that business-owned tablets will comprise 14 percent of the total global tablet installed base in 2015 and 20 percent by 2018. 
The numbers point to an important opportunity, even if they are dwarfed by the use of laptops and smartphones at work. 

Low replacement rate
?Tablets, for the most part, are used primarily while in transit, while standing or for specific workflows. Workers will often bring their own tablets when employers do not supply them.

The tablet installed based continues to grow, in part, because tablets are not replaced as quickly as smartphones. 

In North America, where smartphone owners tend to have wireless contracts with built-in device upgrades, it is possible to accurately predict when phones will be replaced. 

However, because tablets are so well-built and there has been a lack of radical innovations in the category, many tablet owners are still using early-generation devices. As a result, most new sales are to first-time buyers, meaning the installed based of users is continuing to grow. 

The Galaxy Tab S

Another factor impacting the tablet market is the popularity of a new product category: phablets. 

Business critical?
On the manufacturing side, the iPad is struggling, with sales dropping 18 percent year-over-year in the final quarter of 2014. 

Forrester expects that Apple?s ecosystem for iPads will continue to get stronger going forward, as evidenced by IBM?s commitment to build 100 business-focused apps for iOS. 

The price of Android tablets continues to decrease, dropping below $50 in some cases, making the product category less attractive for hardware vendors. 

Android for Work, a new set of OS features, aims to make Android more viable for enterprise use, with many likely to be tempted to integrate Android devices because of their low cost. 

Additionally, Microsoft has signaled the end of Windows RT, an operating system designed to power 32-bit ARM-based devices. 

With Windows 10, Microsoft will unify its offerings into a single OS, meaning developers will be able to build once and deploy phones, tablets, PCs and the Surface Hub. 

Forrester expects Windows 10 will become the new enterprise standard. The Windows platform has already become the hardware innovation leader for enterprise tablets with devices suited to specific workflows. 

?Despite the sharp decline in overall shipment growth rates, there?s a big bright spot in the tablet market: company-purchased devices,? Mr. Gownder said.

?In fact, tablets will only continue to become more business critical over the next five years,? He said. ?Tablets open up new business opportunities, and the evidence suggests they?ll continue to do so.?

Final Take
?Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York