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Global sales of tablets continue to slip

Tablets edged out by smartphones and competition from new convertibles, says IDC

Global sales of tablets continue to slip
Sales of tablets have declined in recent years.

Global sales of tablet devices have continued to decline according to IDC, including sales of ‘detachable' convertible devices.

Shipments declined by 3.4% year-on-year, to 37.9m, in the second quarter of 2017 the analyst company said. Sales of tablets have slowed in recent years, due to smartphones overtaking them in consumer interest and long refresh cycles. New launches in Q2, such as the lower priced iPad, have failed to halt the trend.

Detachable tablet devices, which were expected to improve sales have also lost ground, although new product refreshes from high-profile vendors like Apple and Microsoft in the end of the second quarter may push up detachable sales.

"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 2-in-1 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."

Despite the decline in sales, according to IDC's Quarterly Mobile Device Tracker, the top five vendors all increased sales and market share, at the expense of smaller brands and whitebox vendors. IDC expects that these gains may be temporary in the long term, due to the long refresh cycle for tablet devices and pressure on pricing.

Apple saw sales grow by 14.7% to 11.4m devices, 30% of the market, supported by two new iPad models, and particularly consumer demand for the cheaper new iPad. Samsung gained share by sustaining flat growth in this declining market, shipping 6m units for 16% of the market. Huawei, Amazon and Lenovo made up the rest of the top five.

In the detachables segment, Apple maintained the lead with help from the launch of the new iPad Pro, while Microsoft was second, and Samsung's broad range helped it to secure third.

"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," said Linn Huang, research director, Devices & 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, the reintroduction of Windows to the ARM platform could help remedy the aforementioned hollowing of the middle of the market, and we expect a proliferation of Chrome OS-based detachables in time for the holidays."

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