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article imageDetachables prop up tablets market as sales slump continues

By James Walker     Aug 6, 2017 in Technology
Sales of tablet computers continued to fall during the second quarter of the year, according to a new report from market analysts IDC. However, there is hope that interest in detachable devices could provide a revival this year as some brands are growing.
In its latest look at the tablet market, IDC found worldwide shipments decreased 3.4 percent year-over-year during the second quarter of 2017. A total of 37.9 million devices were shipped with Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Amazon and Lenovo forming the top five manufacturers.
The tablet market has been shrinking for years amid pressure from the smartphone industry and traditional desktop PCs. Throughout the decline, detachable devices like Microsoft's Surface and Apple's iPad Pro have been touted as potential saviours of tablet sales. By blending mobile and desktop experiences together, portable tablet-based workstations hold promise as an ideal computing environment.
IDC now views detachables sceptically though, noting consumers still seem to favour competing convertible notebooks. The analysts said there's been a "resetting of expectations" around what detachables can offer. First-time buyers are becoming a "commodity" as consumers switch back to the regular notebook form factor.
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Microsoft and Apple still dominate sales of detachable devices. Rival manufacturers have seen only minor success by trying to emulate the look and feel of devices like the Surface. IDC said the duopoly held by the Surface and iPad Pro has made the pace of development "rather slow," holding back the market.
"To date, the 2-in-1 market was bifurcated as Apple and Microsoft led with detachables while the PC vendors led with convertibles," said IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani. "Though that is slowly changing as smartphone vendors and traditional PC vendors begin to offer compelling alternatives, the pace has been rather slow as Surface and iPad Pro still dominate shelf space and mindshare."
There are some promising signs though. Three out of the top five tablet makers grew their market share this quarter over the same period last year. Apple in particular has made significant gains through its launch of new iPad Pro models. For the first time in three years, Apple reported a jump in iPad sales in its quarterly earnings, reversing previous consecutive declines. Microsoft is also well-placed to increase sales having just launched its updated Surface Pro range.
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IDC said it expects sales of detachables to increase through the end of the year. New Surface and iPad launches are generally successful in raising shipments for a few quarters after their release. New devices from other manufacturers are also expected in the coming months, adding some much-needed diversity to the detachables space.
Even so, IDC isn't confident that detachables alone can revive the tablet market. It warned that the future of tablets hinges on a "race" between the decline of traditional slate devices and the rise of detachables. While there's "hope" for the future, a return to overall growth might not come soon.
"The tablet market has essentially become a race to see if the burgeoning detachables category can grow fast enough to offset the long-term erosion of the slate market," said Linn Huang, IDC Devices & Displays research direct. "From that lens, the second quarter was a slight righting of the ship and there is still much to be hopeful about in the back half of 2017."
More about Tablets, detachables, Devices, Microsoft surface, ipad pro