Last May Patently Apple reported that 2016 was Apple's first full year of iPad Pro shipments, which included the launch of the smaller screen lower-cost 9.7 inch version. This product line quickly elevated Apple to the top of the growing detachable tablet market segment, and IDC believed that Apple was in a good spot to remain competitive at the top of this segment despite using a 'mobile OS' while many of its competitors are entering the space with Windows-based devices.
Today IDC reports that the worldwide detachable tablet market grew to 6.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017 (4Q17), an increase of 10.3% from the previous holiday season.
More importantly, Apple maintained a solid lead in the holiday quarter driving growth both through its lower-priced 9.7-inch iPad as well as its newly refreshed iPad Pro products.
While the lower-price iPad has continued to drive a strong consumer upgrade cycle, the shifting focus is to iPad Pro and its potential in the commercial and education segments. With the only expected tablet growth to come from these segments, Apple's recent launch of "Apple at Work" shows their commitment to maintain its leader position.
IDC's Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst, noted in the report that "To date, much of the trajectory of the detachable market has been attributed to Microsoft and Apple pushing their wares in the U.S. However, continued success of this category hinges on the willingness of other PC vendors to participate and more importantly, consumers from other countries to adopt the new form factor over convertible PCs."
Lauren Guenveur, senior research analyst for IDC's Devices and Displays team added that "With the first wave of Windows on ARM products expected to begin shipping in the second quarter of 2018, we believe the detachables category has the potential to continue its growth trajectory. Many of these products are being introduced at the premium end of the market. What remains glaringly sparse, and needed, are strong players in the mid-segment of the market."
In December Patently Apple reported that Qualcomm had announced that their always connected 2-in-1 notebook-tablets would be hitting the market this spring.
HP, Lenovo, Asus and others will be launching these next-generation snapdragon based PC's. Some will be classic detachables where the tablet actually separates from the keyboard.
We only hope that IDC will be fair and only include true detachables in detachable statistics in H2 and not tilt the scale in Microsoft's favor by counting notebooks with swivel and back-foldable displays as detachables – for which they are not.
Outside of the detachable tablets, IDC notes that "old-fashioned slate tablets continued to ship in large volumes reaching 43.1 million units during the fourth quarter, and 141.7 million during the year. These devices do not offer much in terms of productivity and have been largely relegated to simple media consumption devices.
With narrow margins some vendors are using this form factor as a portal to their larger ecosystems or to promote their brand within broader gadget market. Meanwhile, end-user demand has slowed significantly in the last few years, with 2017 declining 7.6% from the previous year.
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