NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It was a somewhat disappointing holiday season for tablet manufacturers, as total shipments gained a mere 1% over the previous year. Tablets running Google's (GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report Android operating system and Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report -based tablets turned out to be the big winners while Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report saw its numbers fall fairly dramatically.
According to newly released data, shoppers may be putting off the purchase of new tablets and, instead, buying the super-sized smartphones also known as "phablets." The category includes devices such as Apple's iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy Note 4, LG G3 and the Nexus 6 made by Lenovo's (LNVGY) Motorola division.
Strategy Analytics' latest report shows total tablet shipments were up only 1% to 78.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, up from 77.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2013. Most of those gains were made by lower-cost devices running on the Android operating system and came at the expense of iPads. Tablet shipments had registered a much larger 20% year-over-year gain in 2013.
Analysts found that Apple further consolidated its global market share, due to anticipated seasonal shipments reaching a 27% share of the tablet market.
"Android recorded a share of 66% of the tablet market," said Peter King, director at Strategy Analytics. "Android-branded vendors shipped 51.8 million units between them worldwide in Q4 2014, up 8% from 47.8 million a year earlier. Windows 8.1 Tablets showed an 89% growth rate annually, with improved sales at the high-end with products such as Microsoft Surface Pro 3, but also at the low end of the price spectrum as more Windows-based products emerge from the Chinese manufacturers."
Eric Smith, senior tablet analyst at Strategy, said, "Apple's 21.4 million shipments declined 18% annually and increased 74% sequentially due to seasonality. The iPhone 6 products are putting pressure on the iPad Mini, and the continued success of the Mac could be inhibiting some iPad Air 2 growth."
Companies such as Apple have to do a better job at expanding where tablets can be used to better entice consumers.
"[V]endors need to focus on innovation in tablets to better entice developed market consumers to replace their old models, otherwise, replacement cycles will continue to lengthen," Smith said. "Emerging markets and enterprise offer opportunities for new tablet sales, and there are signs that tablet vendors will address those segments more aggressively in 2015. For example, HP (HPQ) - Get HP Inc. (HPQ) Reportannounced an enterprise line-up dedicated to verticals like health care, field work, education, and retail."
Last month, industry experts from Flurry reported that this past holiday season proved to be "a banner Christmas" for Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones "accounting for 51% of the new device activations worldwide." Flurry said, "For every Samsung devices that was activated, Apple activated 2.9 devices. For every Microsoft Lumia device activated, Apple activated 8.8 devices."
Strategy's tablet numbers are in contrast to a similar report from the analysts at IDC who said worldwide tablet shipments were actually off 3.2% from the previous year, marking the first industry-wide drop since 2010.
Jean Philippe Bouchard, IDC's tablet research director, said, "Despite an apparent slowdown of the market, we maintain our forecast about tablet growth in 2015. Microsoft's new OS, a general shift towards larger screen form factor and productivity focused solutions, and technology innovations such as gesture interface that could be introduced in tablets will help the market maintain positive growth in 2015."
Apple is rumored to be working on a new iPad design, which could include a 12.9-inch display, for release in early 2015.
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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Gary Krakow is TheStreet's Senior Technology Correspondent
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.