AMAZON-FIRE-49-PACKAGINGThe latest International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker figures for the fourth quarter of 2015 show a global tablet market overall pulling back 10 percent year-on-year during the holiday season. “Total shipments for 2015 were 206.8 million, down -10.1 percent from 230.1 million in the prior year,” IDC states. However, “Amazon’s $50 (or $42 for bulk shoppers) tablet was the holiday season’s surprise hit, garnering the number 3 rank among the worldwide top 5.” Also, “despite the market’s negative trajectory overall, shipments for detachable tablets reached an all-time high of 8.1 million devices.”

Not such a surprise, perhaps. As I predicted back in September last year, it looks as though the $50 Fire is such a persuasive price-plus-content offering that it’s exerting significant pressure on the low-end tablet market as a whole. IDC also vindicates Amazon’s own boasts about the Fire being a holiday hit. Amazon’s year-on-year growth hit “175.7 percent, the highest among the top 5,” confirmed IDC, though adding, “while this bodes well during the holiday season, it’s unlikely the Kindle’s success will continue in the remainder of the year.” We’ll see. In any case, Amazon shipped 5.2 million tablet units in 4Q2015, according to IDC, compared to 16.1 million for Apple and 9 million for Samsung, giving it just under 8 percent market share. If we assume that Amazon’s breakout growth since its 1.9 million units for the same time last year came entirely from the Fire, then Amazon may have sold just over 3 million $50 Fires in the holiday season.

It looks as though I may have to eat humble pie in one department, though. While Apple’s overall tablet market take shrank almost 25 percent year-on-year, according to Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, “despite lukewarm reviews, the iPad Pro was the clear winner this season as it was the top selling detachable, surpassing notable entries from Microsoft and other PC vendors. It’s also important to note that the transition towards detachable tablets has presented positive opportunities for both Apple and Microsoft.”

“One of the biggest reasons why detachables are growing so fast is because end users are seeing those devices as PC replacements,” addded Jean Philippe Bouchard, Research Director, Tablets at IDC. “We believe Apple sold just over two million iPad Pros while Microsoft sold around 1.6 million Surface devices, a majority of which were Surface Pro and not the more affordable Surface 3. With these results, it’s clear that price is not the most important feature considered when acquiring a detachable – performance is.” Note, though, that Apple’s success with the Pro has been “able to curb the decline in iPad revenues as its model mix shifted towards higher priced iPads” – but not to revive growth in its tablet market share.

That said, Amazon now looks to be the dominant player in the low end of the tablet market, according to one quarter’s data at least. All courtesy of one new device. Furthermore, the shrinking market size, and Apple and Microsoft’s increasing focus on other form factors and price points, mean that Amazon may be able to capitalize on other competitors’ shifting priorities. Like the baggie says, it really is “a most sensible tablet.”

IDC Tablet Tracker 4Q2015



  1. The iPad Pro was a smart move by Apple. It sold well because it’s new and targets an important high-end market, particularly those who design books, magazines, and websites. Simply by swiping their fingers, they can create a draft design in the Adobe Comp CC app, rearrange it to look better, and then export it to Adobe’s Illustrator, InDesign, Muse or Photoshop. What they’ll get are native files in those apps with all the elements editable.

    The iPad Pro gives them a much larger screen to do that on, along with a number of other useful features. There’s no reason to compare it to Amazon’s $50 Kindles. One is for high-end content creation. The other is for low-budget content consumption.

    You can find the details here:


    I’d love to be able to bring those capabilities into my books. That’s a key reason why I’m ticked off that both the epub and Kindle formats are so impoverished. PDF is very powerful. I can do some marvelous things with my print version. But the results won’t carry over into the digital version.

    For instance, when I describe in one book (My Night with Leukemia) all the complexities nurses faced managing our kid’s IV chemotherapy, I love to be able to place alongside the text, a tall line art drawing showing just how complex those IVs were. Instead, the best I could do was a picture that partially illustrated that situation. But it was from a distance and, because of page-break woes, had to be placed at the start of a chapter.


    In the current world, it’s not just that ebooks are woefully limited in what they can do, it’s that they’re holding back their print counterparts. Ebooks should look as good as the best of websites or magazines. Instead, they look like an IBM terminal circa 1975.

    Here’s about the best I can do with the current state of the art and fixed-layout epub. Note this only works with tablet-sized screens. It won’t rearrange itself smartly to cope with a smartphone screen.

    Move your mouse over the right side to display an arrow that allows you to page through the book. I think it looks attractive enough, but it is nothing in comparison to what you see on website on in print magazines.

    Watch the iPad Pro design video here to see what could be:

    Imagine digital books that are as visually rich as those you see in that video, images alongside text and even, suitably mooted, underneath text. Imagine readers smart enough to bring that result to your device whatever the screen size.

    When it comes to digital books, we’re still in the stone age making scratches on rocks.

    –Mike Perry

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