Just a few years earlier, a large number of so-called analysts and even sections of the tech media tipped tablet PCs to replace laptops as the primary mobile computation devices of choice for the masses. The industry, however, has been seeing diminishing sales in recent times, and earlier this week, IDC released its latest report regarding the state of the tablet market, according to which, the industry has seen its fifth straight quarter of decreasing sales in Q4, 2015. While Apple and Samsung continue to remain the big two in a steadily eroding market, comparatively smaller vendors like Huawei and Amazon have apparently made a lot of headway with triple digit growth in a market that’s shrinking like there’s no tomorrow.
It is, however, not all doom and gloom as far as the tablet market is concerned. The one silver lining seems to be the rapid growth of ‘detachables’, which are described as touchscreen tablets with detachable keyboards. The market for such devices grew by over 100 percent last year even in the midst of the steep downturn, which has resulted in the overall tablet market shrinking by around 13.7 percent on a year-on-year basis, and over twenty percent sequentially in the last quarter. The numbers are just as worrying for the whole year, seeing as total tablets shipments were down 10.1 percent last year, while non-detachable pure slates saw 21.1 percent fewer units shipped during the course of the year.
Devices with newer form factors, however, seemed to have bucked the trend, seeing as the category saw record shipments of 8.1 million units globally, helped in large parts by devices running on Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 10. Such devices come at a significant premium to regular notebook PCs, but represents a growing space, with 12 percent of the overall tablet market now taken up by devices that come with this particular form factor. At the other end of the spectrum, ultra-affordable sub-$100 slates seem to be getting a lot of attention as well, seeing as the $50 Fire tablet from Amazon is shipping by the boatload as well. In the midst of all that, it seems like the regular, plain vanilla mid-market slates are getting squeezed out of the market right now.
Coming to some cold, hard numbers, as mentioned already, the Redmond, WA-based software giant, Microsoft, seems to be the single largest gainer of the emerging trend, what with its ‘Surface’ and ‘Surface Pro’ Windows 10 devices shipping over 1.6 million units overall. Microsoft, however, is admittedly starting off with a very small base, seeing as earlier ‘Surface’ devices based on the much-maligned Windows 8/8.1 platform were just not moving off the retail shelves fast enough. Apple has also been a beneficiary, with 2 million units of the iPad Pro reported to have been shipped by the Cupertino, CA-based company in the first three months of the device being on the market.
Where that leaves Android-based slates is anybody’s guess, but with consumers seemingly preferring a desktop environment for their premium detachable computation devices, Android OEMs – and Google – need to be proactive if Android is to be as relevant in the tablet space as it is in the smartphone sector, where over 80 percent of all devices worldwide run on the open source platform from Google.