Tablet sales decline further as convertibles dominate

The death of tablets has been declared over and over for the past few years as big screened phones became the norm, effectively eradicating the position of tablets as larger canvases for viewing and creating touch first digital content.

IDC’s quarterly report  on the tablet market does little to dispel the clouds of doom that hover over the remnants of the tablet market.

“There’s a penchant for low-cost slates and this holds true even for premium vendors like Apple,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. “However, many of these low-cost slates are simply long-awaited replacements for consumers as first-time buyers are becoming harder to find and the overall installed base for these devices declines further in the coming years.”

First time buyers for normal tablets are increasingly hard to find, and the penchant for low-end and cheap tablets that buoys non-Apple manufacturers are simply a stop-gap, replacing older tablets and being sold often as bundles by mobile carriers (or in 6packs by Amazon). Ironically enough, while Windows convertibles might be the hammers driving the nail into the coffin of the standalone tablet, Microsoft’s own tablets may be facing the same fate.

“In a recent IDC survey, owners of both convertibles and detachables stated they were far more inclined to recommend a convertible to another shopper than a detachable,” said Linn Huang, research director, Devices & Displays. “Market momentum has steadily shifted away from the latter towards the former over the course of this year. The 2017 holiday season may prove to be a critical crossroad for the detachables category.”

While Microsoft defines the Surface as a Laptop, IDC would categorize it as a  detachable tablet- differing from a convertible PC in that its keyboard can be removed entirely (and that it is plainly designed with tablet first functionality — my inference, otherwise the Surface Book would be a tablet and that would just be a ridiculous assertion to make.) The iPad would also be a tablet under this market, and while both are selling adequately, neither are enough to push the tablet market from dying to merely comatose. Users still prefer buying convertible laptops which are Laptop first and flip, twist, and perform all sorts of gadgetry gymnastics in order to take advantage of increasingly touch-friendly desktop operating systems.

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