As iPad's Fifth Birthday Approaches, Annual Sales To Fall For First Time

Tablets existed long before Apple came out with the iPad five years ago, though the Cupertino company certainly deserves credit for advancing the category and creating demand that didn't really exist prior to its release. And it's been a good run for Apple, which has dominated the tablet market ever since, but has the market for these devices run its course?

We don't know the answer to that question yet, though there are indications that should worry Apple. One of them is ABI Research's forecast that iPad sales will tally 68 million units in 2014, down from 74 million units in 2014. If the number crunchers at ABI Research are close, or even in the ballpark, then this will be the first time in its nearly five years of existence that annual iPad sales have slipped.

Apple iPad Air 2

"Historically, Apple has counted approximately 35 percent of its iPad sales in the last calendar quarter of the year," says Jeff Orr, senior practice director of ABI. "Unless Apple can pull off a 32-plus million-unit quarter, sales for CY2014 will be down for the first year since the iPad launched."

Apple isn't alone here. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google are all expected to report year-over-year declines in tablet sales. The problem these players are facing is that consumers aren't seeing a need to upgrade over their existing models. Sure, the iPad Air 2
 is faster and overall better than the iPad Air, but it's not a monumental leap, especially in terms of the user experience. Same goes for other generational upgrades.

Interestingly enough, Samsung is bucking the trend -- the company is expected to ship 43 million slates in 2014, up from 38 million in the previous. Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, and Microsoft are also expected to see tablet sales rise in 2014.