Can tablet sales return to growth?

There’s no denying that the tablet boom is over, but some analysts expect the sector to see a resurgence in the coming years.

Global tablet shipments are expected to decline in 2016 for the second straight year, dropping 9.6 per cent compared to 2015 volumes, according to IDC. 

But after a few more years of decline, IDC expects a ‘slight rebound’ in 2018, driven by detachable tablet growth. The detachable category currently accounts for around 16 per cent of the PC market – and IDC reckons it will jump to almost a third (31 per cent) in 2020. IDC also estimates that more than 100 million slate tablets will ship annually through to 2020. 

The main driver for this is the low cost associated with smaller screen slate devices. Slate tablets with screen sizes less than nine inches had an average selling price of $183 in 2015 and IDC expects this to decline to $157 in 2020.

The likes of Dell, Acer and ASUS showcased new detachable devices at the recent Computex show, driving new innovation in the category (see page 23 for retailer reaction and page 55 for our product roundup).

With more vendors focusing on this segment, this has resulted in increased product offerings. 

Many traditional PC manufacturers have assumed the detachable category to be a natural extension of the PC market and perhaps assumed it would be theirs to capture, but they are competing with a slew of new manufacturers that have created their market from smartphone and slate tablet growth. 

“The detachable tablet segment is also considered by some manufacturers, like Apple, as a way to spur replacement cycles of the existing slate tablet installed base,” says IDC tablets research director Jean Philippe Bouchard. “One reason why the slate tablet market is experiencing a decline is because end users don’t have a good enough reason to replace them, and that’s why productivity-centric devices like detachable tablets are considered replacement devices for high-end larger slate tablets.”

Ryan Reith, program VP at IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, adds: “In many emerging markets the only computing device for many will be a mobile device, whether that is a small screen tablet, smartphone, or both. This is the main reason why, despite all the hype that the detachable category receives, we believe cheaper slate tablets fill an important void.”

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