Annual iPad sales expected to fall for first time

As the calendar year comes to a close, full-year Apple iPad sales are expected to decline for the first time in the tablet's five-year history, according to a new report.

ABI Research on Tuesday forecast for iPad sales to reach about 68 million in 2014, down from the 74 million units sold in 2013.

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"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."

Along with Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google are also expected to post year-over-year declines in branded tablet unit volume.

An Apple Inc. employee scans the price of an iPad Air at the 5th Avenue Apple store in New York.
Craig Warga | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An Apple Inc. employee scans the price of an iPad Air at the 5th Avenue Apple store in New York.

On the other hand, Samsung, the second-largest tablet vendor, is forecast o ship around 43 million tablets in 2014, better than the 38 million shipped in the previous calendar year. Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG and Microsoft are also forecast to end higher the year higher.

Comparing tablet operating systems, Android continues to gain share with an expected 54 percent of branded tablets including the Google OS in 2014 while iOS falls to 41 percent and Windows 8 trails at 5 percent of shipments, the report said.

The research firm sees overall tablet sales growing some 16 percent year over year to 194 million in 2015. The growth trend is expected to continue over the next five years with a forecast of nearly 290 million tablet shipments in 2019.

According to ABI, reasons for tablet's growth comeback include:

1. A broader tablet adoption by businesses for the "clipboard workforce"

2. Clearer, tiered product portfolios from leading manufactures

3. Benefits-oriented marketing messaging by vendors to reach laggard adopters in the most mature market economies

Troubling story for tablets?
Troubling story for tablets?   

This Christmas saw a major jump in phablet sales, but the increase came at the expense of full-size tablets. In the seven days leading up to Christmas, 11 percent of new device activations were full-size tablets, down from 11 percent in 2013, according to a separate report from marketing analytics firm Flurry.

Small tablets accounted for 11 percent of Christmas day activations, down modestly from 12 percent last year.

"App developers should take into account the fact that larger screens are becoming the primary device; it's not just the secondary prime-time tablet anymore," Flurry said in a blogpost Tuesday.

Apple's iPhone 6 Plus, the company's smartphone-tablet hybrid, was one of the top five devices activated for Christmas, according to a separate report from marketing analytics firm Flurry.

CNBC has a content-sharing relationship with Flurry's parent company, Yahoo.