FRAMINGHAM, MA – Worldwide tablet shipments are expected to decline for the second straight year in 2016, dropping 9.6% compared to 2015 volumes, according to International Data Corp.

The tablet market has seen its peak and will face down years in 2016 and 2017, says the firm, followed by a slight rebound in 2018 and beyond driven by detachable tablet growth. Currently, the detachable category accounts for 16% of the market; IDC expects it to reach 31% in 2020.

Tablet lifecycles have proven to be more like PCs a few years back, which is likely to be somewhere around four years, says the firm.

Tablet manufacturers, both large and small, are slowly shifting focus toward the detachable tablet market segment, which has quickly resulted in increased product offerings, lower average selling prices, and broadened consumer awareness for the category. Many traditional PC manufacturers have assumed the detachable category to be a natural extension of the PC market and perhaps assumed it would be theirs to capture. Now they find themselves in head-to-head competition with a slew of new manufacturers that have created their market off of smartphone and slate tablet growth. This brings new channel dynamics and lower prices to a brand new category, says IDC.

"The detachable tablet segment is also considered by some manufacturers, like Apple, as a way to spur replacement cycles of the existing slate tablet installed base," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director, Tablets. "One reason why the slate tablet market is experiencing a decline is because end-users don't have a good enough reason to replace them, and that's why productivity-centric devices like detachable tablets are considered replacement devices for high-end larger slate tablets."

Despite the negativity around slates, most of which is driven by the forecasted negative year-over-year growth, IDC still expects well over 100 million slates to ship annually through 2020. The main driver for this is the low cost associated with smaller screen slate devices.

Slate tablets with screen sizes less than 9" had an average selling price of $183 in 2015; IDC expects this to decline to $157 in 2020. Despite the small screen and typically lower configurations, for many this still provides a fairly decent computing experience, especially within emerging markets.

"It wasn’t long ago the industry talked about one PC per person, and to some extent that theory has vanished," said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. "I'd rather look at it and say the PC we were referencing six to eight years ago has changed drastically. In many emerging markets the only computing device for many will be a mobile device, whether that is a small screen tablet, smartphone, or both. This is the main reason why, despite all the hype the detachable category receives, we believe cheaper slate tablets fill an important void."

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