Tablets: Why businesses are falling in love with them, just as consumers are getting bored

Two-in-one shipments rise while sales of consumer tablets slump, say analysts.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Businesses are getting more interested in hybrid devices like Microsoft's Surface Book.

Image: Microsoft

Are businesses finally falling in love with tablets, just as consumers fall out of love with them?

According to figures from IDC, 8.2 million tablets were shipped into Western Europe in the third quarter of this year, a 6.7 percent decline year-on-year. But while sales of consumer tablets dropped, spending on high-priced two-in-one devices like the iPad Pro and Microsoft's Surface range grew rapidly.

Shipments of detachable and two-in-one devices saw a 48.4 percent increase year-on-year, with sales to business growing 13.1 percent year-on-year. Detachable devices -- especially those aimed at business users -- tend to be more expensive, and the number of devices in the over-€600 price band in Western Europe grew 66.7 percent year-on-year, now accounting for 10.6 percent of the total tablet market. The total value of the market grew 4.8 percent year-on-year to €2.5 billion as a result, despite an overall reduction in the number of tablets shipped.

"The increasing penetration of detachables, particularly in the commercial space, is sustaining tablet market value despite the contraction in volume," said Daniel Goncalves, IDC's Western European PC research analyst. He said that interest from businesses in two-in-one devices continues to grow, and devices with enterprise-level security and performance "are continuously gaining traction and this is boosting demand for premium devices."

Image: IDC

Only a quarter of detachable devices were priced above €600 in the third quarter of 2015, but that jumped to more than half in the same period this year.

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Detachables made up 21.9 percent of all tablet devices shipped in the third quarter, compared with 13.8 percent in the year-ago quarter.

IDC said that this category continues to be dominated by Apple's iPad Pro and Microsoft's Surface range, which together make up 46.4 percent of detachable volume.

In contrast, the market for standalone tablets declined 15.5 percent year-on-year, which the analysts said was down to saturation in the market, a lack of innovative features in new models, and sluggish replacement cycles. The consumer segment, which slumped by 10.8 percent year-on-year, was strongly affected by these factors.

In terms of operating system, Android holds onto 65.9 percent of the overall market, with iOS in second place on 21.9 percent and Windows in third on 12.2 percent respectively. IDC's definition of tablets include classic slate-style tablets and detachables -- also known as two-in-one PCs -- like Microsoft's Surface range.

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