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article imageTablet sales to fall as Windows 'detachables' rise in popularity

By James Walker     Mar 9, 2016 in Technology
Sales of tablet computers are expected to fall almost 6 percent this year as other more versatile products rise in popularity. Hybrids are expected to see particular success, driven by Windows-based laptops that convert into tablets.
Market analysts IDC predicted worldwide tablet shipments will drop to 195 million units in 2016 in a report published on March 8. The decline will represent a 5.9 percent decrease from the same period in 2015. Despite the significant drop, IDC expects the market to experience positive growth beyond 2016, identifying the growing demand for detachable devices as the reason for this increase.
The vast majority of detachable products use Microsoft's Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 operating systems. Windows hasn't been able to compete with Apple and Google in sales of plain slate tablets but retains a strong lead in the detachable space, led by Microsoft's own range of Surface convertible tablets, aggressively billed as "the tablet that can replace your laptop."
Windows currently holds 53.3 percent of the worldwide detachable tablet market. That is expected to increase to 74.6 percent by 2020. IDC expects Apple's iOS to be the main loser in the space, decreasing from 28.5 percent today to 7.3 percent in 2016. Google's Android will essentially flat line, slipping just 0.1 percent units from 18.2 percent to 18.1 percent.
IDC blames Apple's lack of a Mac OS X-powered tablet as the main reason for its fall from favour. The company currently uses its limited iOS operating system on tablets and has yet to launch a device running OS X, the desktop-based OS used on its Mac computers.
"This momentous shift in form factor will bring along the first significant impact of Windows-based devices that the tablet market has seen," said Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers.
"Windows 10 seems to be making headway in both the PC and tablet markets, mainly driven by devices with larger screen sizes. Despite the free licensing on products under 9 inches the growth for Windows-based tablets will be primarily on devices with displays between 9 and 13 inches. Until we see a day where touch is introduced for Mac OS X and inroads are paved to bring Android and Chrome more closely aligned, we believe Windows remains the logical choice for detachable products."
The hybrid category as a whole is expected to grow from 16.6 million shipments in 2015 to 63.8 million in 2020. For many, a hybrid device is the best way to stay productive on the go and relax at home with a film. One product can act as a laptop at work and a premium tablet at the weekend. As consumers and enterprises continue to adopt detachable products, they are expected to deemphasise the role of traditional "slate" tablets in the mobile space.
Microsoft won't be the only player in the market. The success of the Surface, particularly from 2014's breakthrough Surface Pro 3, has led to the creation of several similar products by big name companies. Most established computer manufacturers now produce a convertible akin to the Surface, showing how Microsoft has helped to usher in a new era of computing where your device works around you.
IDC also notes that budget brands are beginning to build detachable products. At Mobile World Congress 2016, companies including Alcatel and Huawei unveiled Windows 10 convertible laptops with prices hundreds of dollars lower than premium products. There is now a broad range of products on offer as detachables spread across all price points, suggesting the category is here to stay.
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