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Apple, Samsung Tablets Outsold by Generic Makers

Little-known Brand X suppliers claimed 29 percent of the worldwide tablet market in 2014, shipping some 70 million devices.


Generic tablet makers, or devices sold under another brand name, outpaced Apple and Samsung in market share last year for the first time, according to a new report from researcher Strategy Analytics.

This group of so-called Brand X suppliers claimed 29 percent of the worldwide tablet market in 2014, shipping some 70 million devices, the researcher found. That’s a greater market share than top vendors Apple (at 26 percent) or Samsung (at 17 percent), according to the researcher.

These manufacturers are responsible for the inexpensive devices sold in emerging markets as well as those offered as part of holiday promotions in developed markets like the United States, where wireless carriers literally gave away the tablets to attract subscribers.

“It’s pretty easy to find the deals: Get a data plan and a tablet for free,” said Eric Smith, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.

The proliferation of cheaper devices comes at a time when Apple’s iPad sales have been softening, and the global market showed its first decline since 2010. The company is struggling to create momentum with new devices; it introduced a new line in time for the holidays, but the iPad appears to be suffering from cannibalization from its larger-screen iPhone 6 Plus as well as the Mac, researcher IDC noted.

Further research reports have identified the rise of the “other” tablet makers, though not all tablets are created equal. Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies said this “other” category of devices, with little-known names, is doing brisk sales in China and India, where they’re used primarily as portable video players.

“You’re seeing them show up in different places, but the usage is fundamentally different from the more capable tablets like Apple’s iPad and the Samsung Galaxy.”

Although consumers may purchase an inexpensive tablet from eFun or Asus, or receive an Ellipsis free with a two-year Verizon Wireless contract, these devices may be gathering dust. Chitika Insights released a report in January showing that Apple’s iPads account for 70 percent of tablet Web traffic in North America, based on its analysis of online ad impressions.

Smith said companies like Samsung will need to more aggressively pursue corporate customers and specialized markets if it hopes to shore-up its tablet business. That’s part of the reason why Samsung has been touting its Knox security software, which is designed to protect corporate-managed apps and data that may reside on personal devices.

Apple has already begun courting the enterprise market in earnest though its partnership with IBM. The first wave of made-for-business applications targeting banking, retail, insurance, financial services, telecommunications and governments were announced in December.

Analysts expect that the much-rumored iPad 12.9-inch Pro would fit with its quest to conquer the corporate market. Apple has declined to comment on the speculation.

The Strategy Analytics report tracks channel shipments, not sales to consumer.

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