avatarby David ImelNovember 27, 20161 comments

Surface Pro 4 MacBook 1

When the iPad started the tablet revolution way back in 2010, almost every manufacturer was scrambling to produce a competitor. This went on for a couple of years, and slowly but surely usage of the internet shifted from dedicated desktop systems to mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. Over time though, smartphones began to get larger and larger, and eventually pushed their way into tablet territory. Since then, consumers have been looking for devices that functioned similar to laptops, but gave them the portability of a tablet when needed. Thus, the detachable was born.

This category has been growing quickly over time, and  it has the numbers prove it. A report done by International Data Corporation shows that tablets in Europe had a 6.7% YoY decline since last year, while detachable laptops saw a solid 48.4% increase. This is likely due to the now high average size of smartphone screens, which are typically able to do common tasks just as well as a tablet. For many consumers, it doesn’t make sense to purchase a device with the exact same functionality as a system you already own, but detachables allow for typing speed when you need it, and portability when you don’t.

Even Apple’s iPad has evolved over time to include a detachable keyboard. The iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface line account for 46.6% of total detachable sales volume, leading the way in the evolution of the space. Now that Apple, the company who popularized the tablet in general has decided that detachable units are much more useful, the consumers have realized much of the same.

These portable devices used to be strictly for entertainment, but they have slowly but surely become more powerful, and are now capable enough to appeal to professionals. In fact, Microsoft’s new Surface Book with Performance Base provides a dedicated NVIDIA 965M GPU, which is excellent choice for any kind of creative work. While battery life and screen resolution used to be the primary detachable strong points, adding power creates an option that can appeal to all kinds of users.

Now that these detachable computers can do everything tablets can do and more, it’s quite a hard sell for manufacturers to keep producing these products. The iPad continues to see strong sales, but has lost enough to see a decrease of 8.6% in market share. Some companies such as Amazon saw an increase in sales, but these were single purpose units, with Amazon’s Kindle primarily targeted at providing a premium reading device at a low price. Overall, a 6.7% decrease shows a rapidly changing use case for consumers and business users alike, and we’re seeing a rapid shift in the space to reflect that.

Western Europe Tablets: Vendor Trends

3Q16 (Calendar Year) (000 Units)

Vendor Unit Shipments 3Q15 Unit Shipments 3Q16 Unit % Share 3Q15 Unit % Share 3Q16 Unit Growth 3Q15 vs 3Q16
Apple 1,961 1,792 22.3% 21.9% -8.6%
Samsung 2,105 1,676 24.0% 20.4% -20.4%
Lenovo 620 620 7.1% 7.6% 0.0%
Acer Group 265 418 3.0% 5.1% 57.8%
Amazon.com 151 403 1.7% 4.9% 166.5%
Others 3,682 3,288 41.9% 40.1% -10.7%
Total 8,785 8,197 100.00% 100.00% -6.7%

While sales of desktop computers are continuing to decline, laptops and detachables are taking firm hold of the market. Especially with the introduction of NVIDIA 1000 series GPUs in laptops, the need for a dedicated PC is dwindling. Mobile units continue to become much more powerful and get much better battery life, and the portability is optimal in the modern world, where the consumer and business people alike are on the go multiple times a day.

Do you own a tablet? Do you like it? The bigger question here is, do you think it would be better with a keyboard? I personally use a Microsoft Surface Book, and I would not be able to do what I do for a living without the keyboard. I do still love the detachable tablet though, as it’s nice to be able to watch content with a lighter device.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, we would love to know what you think.

  • Robert Christopulos

    The problem with tablet sales is that over the last two years none have been introduced that actually equal, much less exceed the capabilities of Samsung’s Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 or the Galaxy Note 10.1(2014), which is the tablet i am fortunate enough to possess. For crying out loud, the price of a keyboard case for mine, if i wished to purchase one is incredibly cheap. On eBay they’re available from $7.00 up to about $45.00.

    I personally dislike typing with a manual keyboard because I much prefer using a Swype keyboard or just dictating whatever I have to say. That being said, I write an average of 22 letters and use this tablet for research, to teach, for keeping my affairs in order, as a sketchbook using my S Pen, to take handwritten notes (if I wish, converting them to digital text), use it to display music (and with an AirTurn Pedal, turn pages) while I play my keyboard), use it for navigation, since it has 4G LTE connectivity, I even use it as my phone of choice, and even, because it has an IR Blaster, to. control my television, DVD, and so many other things.

    Well, it’s almost 2017 now, and unless Samsung comes up with a really good replacement for my tablet, it’s going to have to be pried from my cold dead fingers.