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Tablets’ Decline Declines

The tablet market showed some signs of life in the second quarter despite a continued downward spiral in overall sales.

According to research from IDC, worldwide shipments of tablets declined 3.4 percent year over year in Q2, reaching 37.9 million units.

However, three of the top five tablet vendors managed to increase share and grow on an annual basis, with price being the largest driving factor, IDC said. These gains may be temporary, though, as the replacement cycle of tablets is still long and first-time buyers have become a rare commodity. With downward pressure on pricing from big name brands, “white-box” tablet vendors and smaller brands are starting to turn their attention away from tablets, and IDC expects this trend to continue.

Once touted as the savior of the market, detachable tablets also declined in the second quarter as consumers waited in anticipation of product refreshes from high-profile vendors like Apple and Microsoft. With new product launches towards the end of the second quarter, the detachable market is expected to maintain a stronger position in the second half of the year.

“There’s been a resetting of expectations for detachables as competing convertible notebooks offered a convincing and familiar computing experience for many,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC’s worldwide quarterly mobile device trackers. “To date, the two-in-one market was bifurcated as Apple and Microsoft led with detachables while the PC vendors led with convertibles. Though that is slowly changing as smartphone vendors and traditional PC vendors begin to offer compelling alternatives, the pace has been rather slow as Surface and iPad Pro still dominate shelf space and mindshare.”

“The tablet market has essentially become a race to see if the burgeoning detachables category can grow fast enough to offset the long-term erosion of the slate market,” added Linn Huang, research director, devices and displays, at IDC. “From that lens, the second quarter was a slight righting of the ship, and there is still much to be hopeful about in the back half of 2017. New product launches from Microsoft and Apple are generally accompanied by subsequent quarters of inflated shipments.”