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February 02, 2016

Report: Market Shifting from Slate Tablets to Detachables

A recent study by IDC indicates that year-over-year sales for tablet devices have declined for five straight quarters. Data suggests that sales for pure slate tablets, which come with no keyboard, have dropped dramatically. The cause: a dramatic market shift towards detachables.

In 2015, the total number of tablet units shipped was at 206.8 million, a 10.1 percent decrease from the 2014 total of 230.1 million. In Q4 2015 the total number of units shipped was 65.9 million units, a 13.7 decrease from the Q4 2014 total of 76.4 million units. In terms of slate tablets alone, the decline in shipment numbers was over 21 percent from the previous year.

Shipment numbers of detachable units in Q4 2015 were more than twice the numbers from Q4 2014. This has the effect of making the drop in overall tablet shipments (slates + detachables) appear less severe.

One important consideration in analyzing the IDC data is to understand how the research firm defines what a detachable is. In an interview with Computerworld, IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani stated that the report defined detachables as units where the keyboard and screen can be separated, allowing the device to function as a laptop or a pure slate tablet.

Because of this definition, the numbers may be somewhat misleading. So-called ‘convertible’ devices, like Lenovo’s Yoga, were considered laptops but not detachables for the purposes of the report. These devices can function as a laptop, but also allow the screen to be folded so that they cover the keyboard and effectively function as a slate tablet; the keyboard and screen do not detach.

If you were to include convertible devices like the Yoga along with those devices that IDC defines as detachables in a single category (like the common vendor term ‘2-in-1s’), the shift away from slate tablets is somewhat higher.

Android detachables, according to Ubrani, are at a disadvantage in the detachables market, because they do not support the ability to ‘window’ multiple applications on the screen simultaneously. Newer versions of Android OS will rectify this issue, but in the meantime, the advantage goes to Microsoft when it comes to detachables.

The data also showed that Apple and Samsung lost market share in terms of overall tablet sales. In Q4 2014, Apple’s market share was 28.1 percent, but that dropped to 24.1 percent in Q4 2015. Over that same timeframe, Samsung’s market share dropped from 14.4 percent to 13.7 percent.

Amazon, on the other hand, saw a dramatic market share increase. In Q4 2014, it had 2.5 percent of the tablet market. That total increased to 7.9 percent. Over the same timeframe, Huawei saw its share increase from 1.4 percent to 3.4 percent.

It’s instructive to see how a market shifts and adjusts over time to certain products. The explosion of the smartphone market indicated that many consumers no longer saw the need for desktop and laptop PCs.

It appeared that slate tablets would take what people liked about smartphones and apply it to a somewhat larger device, but that changed with detachables. The market likes slate tablets, but is signaling that by themselves they are not enough. A device that offers the functionality of a laptop, while allowing the convenience of a slate tablet gives consumers the best of both worlds. 

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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