A roundup of Middle East and Africa’s tablet market
In the face of larger-screen-size smartphones, the Middle East and African tablet market is starting to decline. According to the latest Middle East and Africa Quarterly Tablet Tracker from the International Data Corporation, tablet shipments in the MEA dropped by 10.1 percent in the third quarter of the year.
"Smartphones with large screen sizes meet most needs of today's consumers, who are slowly moving their tasks to these devices," says Fouad Rafiq Charakla, senior research manager for client devices at IDC MEA. "The continuation of low crude oil prices in the Middle East and currency shortages in several African countries are compounding the problem, eventually leading to weaker consumer sentiment."
Samsung was the most popular tablet on the market in the third quarter of 2016, with a 17.6 percent share, despite having a 34.3 percent year-on-year decline in shipments. Lenovo came up just behind with a 13.5 percent share and Huawei in third place after increasing its focus on tablets in the region.
"Demand for tablets in MEA is primarily being driven by entry-level slate models," says Nakul Dogra, senior research analyst for client devices at IDC MEA. "This category offers quite low margins, so the focus on tablets from the supply side is also declining. Many vendors have cut their tablet lineups accordingly, and there don't appear to be any exciting or innovative developments on the immediate horizon to spur purchases in the tablet space."
IDC has predicted a downfall in tablet sales for 2016 overall, with 14.49 million units now expected to be shipped for the year. The previous forecast was 15.07 million units. This drop represents a year-on-year decline of 7.5 percent.
Detachable tablets are expected to be the most successful products, with shipments expected to grow at around 147.9 percent year-on-year in 2016, driven by an increasing demand from consumers and the education sector.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services and events for the information technology, telecommunications and consumer technology markets. IDC has 1,100 analysts worldwide and offers global, regional and local expertise on technology and industry trends in over 110 countries.
Photo credit: John Baer
Nybl: Saudi Startup to Expand AI Solutions
According to co-founder Nour Alnahhas, nybl was formed for the greater good. A visual data mining and machine learning platform, the platform will help organisations streamline their operations. ‘We wanted to centralise our vision around AI and machine learning’, said Alnahhas. ‘Something not just for profit, but added value. Conscious capitalism’.
Nybl aims to democratise artificial intelligence by making it possible for anyone to build an AI solution. What website builders like Wix and Squarespace did for site design, nybl will do for AI—allowing even non-coders to feel comfortable creating solutions. In fact, Alnahhas calls it a ‘Shopify of AI’, or a third-party platform that helps businesses deliver better service.
With hubs in Kuwait, the UAE, North America, and India, nybl is focused on launching operations in Saudi Arabia, Alnahhas’s home country. When the company first launched, it was difficult to convince Saudi Arabian businesses to work with a startup. Yet now, nybl has proven itself. ‘We had support in the UAE, so now we’re coming back’, said Alnahhas.
Alnahhas has launched a pilot with Saudi Aramco and has slowly built partnerships with paper, heating, HVAC air conditioning, and manufacturing companies. In addition, the Saudi government has started to invest in the Kingdom’s National Strategy for Data and AI, which means that nbyl, as a tech startup, has finally gained credibility.
No War for Talent
One of the most critical parts of nybl’s expansion will be hiring the right individuals. Thankfully, there’s a current surplus of talented researchers, developers, and data scientists within the Kingdom. Like nybl’s Alnahhas—educated at the University of Houston, the Wharton School of Business, and INSEAD— many Saudi Arabians have benefited from government-sponsored education abroad.
Last year, Saudi Arabia signed several partnerships with tech firms to advance the Kingdom’s skills in artificial intelligence. ‘It’s exciting to be in Saudi Arabia where there’s alignment and support’, Alnahhas concluded. ‘You’re getting an increasing talent pool. And even old and big family conglomerates are finally changing to use AI’.