Tablet sales have been in a serious downward spiral, but market research firm IDC has reason for optimism and believes they are due for a comeback.
There is a caveat to that prediction, and that's because of a qualifier category: detachables. Tablet sales are already down 11.5 percent worldwide, while convertible and detachable devices are enjoying an uptick in sales, which is expected to continue through 2020, with shipments reaching 194.2 million as detachable tablets continue to take share from traditional PCs.
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Part of the reason detachables are enjoying growth is Windows 10, which built on Windows 8's tablet support and became a more usable operating system at the same time. With one OS and the tablet mode that changes the UI when a detachable is used, people are opting out of traditional PCs and notebooks in favor of one device that can be both a laptop and a tablet.
"Appealing to the commercial audience will be key as detachable tablets aim to take a larger piece of the traditional PC market," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. "Windows and iOS already have solid detachable offerings, and with the latest version of Android, Google will also have a horse in the race as they finally offer better multitasking support and added security features.”
With detachable tablets gaining ground, the traditional "slate" tablet will shed market share but remain the majority product on the market. In 2016, 85 percent of all tablets shipped will be slates, decreasing to just 68 percent by 2020. Most of these will be destined for emerging markets where consumers seek out any low-cost computing device, said IDC.
There will also be a shift in platform. With Windows 10 making detachables palatable, Microsoft will gain share, mostly at the expense of Android. In 2016, Android tablets accounted for 66.2 percent of sales vs. 22.4 percent for Apple and 11.3 percent for Windows. By 2020, IDC predicts Android will decline to 57.8 percent, Apple will hold steady at 22.9 percent, and Windows will jump to 19.3 percent.