Tablets decline but detachables like Surface gain in latest IDC numbers

Laurent Giret

Last month, Market research firm IDC explained that while global tablets shipments tanked in 2015, “detachable tablets” such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 would soon supersede the more traditional tablet form factor. Well, IDC has just released their latest Worldwide Quarterly Tablet tracker numbers and tablets shipments were indeed not good during the first quarter of 2016: 39.6 millions of tablets have been shipped worldwide, representing an annual decline of 14.7%. But while IDC notes that traditional slate tablets still account for 87.6% of all shipments, that segment is still shrinking and “has become synonymous with the low-end of the market.”

IDC worldwide tablet shipments, Q1 2016.
IDC worldwide tablet shipments, Q1 2016.

However, the future seems bright for “detachable tablets” as according to IDC the segment experienced “a triple-digit year-over-year growth on shipments of more than 4.9 million units, an all-time high in the first quarter of a calendar year”. While Microsoft doesn’t belong to the Top Five Tablet Vendors in the first quarter of 2016 according to IDC, the Redmond giant has yet to disclose how many of its Surface products it ships during its quarterly reports. During its Q3 earnings last week, the company only revealed that Surface revenue has increased by 61% during this quarter. But Senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers Jitesh Ubrani acknowledged once again that Microsoft led the “detachable tablet” revolution while Apple recently jumped on board with its new iPad Pro line:

“Microsoft arguably created the market for detachable tablets with the launch of their Surface line of products. With the PC industry in decline, the detachable market stands to benefit as consumers and enterprises seek to replace their aging PCs with detachables. Apple’s recent foray into this segment has garnered them an impressive lead in the short term, although continued long-term success may prove challenging as a higher entry price point staves off consumers and iOS has yet to prove its enterprise-readiness, leaving plenty of room for Microsoft and their hardware partners to reestablish themselves.”

Last, IDC also notes that traditional smartphones vendors such as Huawei (which introduced the Surface-like Matebook two months ago) have also started to ship detachables, which could pose a real threat to traditional PC manufacturers in the future. Philippe Bouchard, Research Director, Tablets at IDC added:

“Their understanding of the mobile ecosystem and the volume achieved on their smartphone product lines will allow them to aggressively compete for this new computing segment. It is likely that those smartphone vendors will utilize the detachable segment to create new mobile computing end-user experiences if customers are using their detachables in combination with their smartphones.”

Do you think detachable tablets are could be the future of both the tablet and PC market? Please tell us what you think in the comments.