That iPad has sold somewhere close to 300 million devices is a testament to it being the right answer for the need at that time. Android tablets came on the market later and by their often lower price and increasing functionality (more and better apps) Apple’s market share has been pulped. Estimates are that around 200-210 million tablets were shipped in 2015 – Apple sold about 50 million of those.
Whether the figures are precise is a moot point as the whole ‘Slate’ tablet market has tanked with the release of Windows 10 hybrid detachable devices like Microsoft’s Surface and recent entrants from HP, Samsung, Huawei, Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, Acer, Asus and more.
Recent IDC figures show that one in every five tablets sold (20%) in Europe in 2015 was, in fact, a hybrid with a detachable keyboard – so of those 200 million about 40 million hybrids have been sold from a category that largely did not previously exist. While Microsoft is the leader in this segment others are catching up quickly with varied offerings – some cheaper, some with more features and some just a little different.
The tablet has grown up from a content consumption device to a content creation device replete with detachable keyboards, USB connectivity, network connectivity, and capable of replacing the laptop.
Indeed, the slate tablet market has fallen prey to the rising smartphone phablet market where smartphones over 5” now account for 70% of the market in some countries – China for example where the primary internet consumption device is now a smartphone.
The dual appeal – content consumption and creation is a winner.
Gartner says Geographically; North America is the largest market for hybrid devices. However, Asia-Pacific is expected to witness the fastest growth during the forecast period. China, India, Japan, Australia, and South Korea are among the major markets for hybrid devices.
IDC has predicted as much as a 75% increase in hybrid shipments and an 11% decrease in desktops in 2016. Buyers have been holding back to get the next-gen Skylake systems with Windows 10 according to Linn Huang, IDC Research Director, Devices & Displays. IDC also estimated that slate tablets will decline a further 8% in 2016.
IDC's Jean Philippe Bouchard, Research Director of Tablets, stated that "We're witnessing a real market transition as end users shift their demand towards detachable and more broadly towards a productivity-based value proposition. The proliferation of detachable offerings from hardware vendors continues to help drive this switch.
IDC’s Jitesh Ubrani stated that "The transition to detachable tablets also ushers in two other key trends: the growth of Windows and a turnaround for Apple's iPad device line." He said that although reviews of Apple's hybrid-like iPad Pro have been mixed, IDC believes that the iPad Pro to be the only reason for Apple to gain any tablet market share in the coming years as they target select enterprise and prosumer audiences.
At the same time, IDC expects Windows-based devices – slates and detachable combined – to more than double its market share by 2019, driven by a combination of traditional PC OEMs as well as more household smartphone vendors."
IDC projects that Windows 10 devices, like the Surface Book laptop and Surface Pro 4 tablet, will ride that wave to a 74.6% share of the detachable tablet market by 2020, up from 53.3% in 2016.
Meanwhile Apple CEO Tim Cook must be regretting saying last November that Microsoft’s new Surface Book was deluded. “It's a product that tries too hard to do too much. It's trying to be a tablet and a notebook, and it really succeeds at being neither. It's sort of deluded" - a harsh reaction to a competing product is quite unusual Apple's mild-mannered Tim Cook.
The other major growth area is Windows 10 gaming and virtual reality PCs.