Gloomy outlook for tablets, but Windows 2-in-1 devices will make it big

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

New figures from IDC forecast that tablet shipments will slump this year, although there is a bright spot and major growth is expected with detachable tablets (2-in-1 or convertible machines) going forward.

IDC's prediction for worldwide tablet shipments in 2016 is that they will drop to 195 million units, which is a decline of 5.9% compared to last year.

However, the aforementioned detachable tablets such as Microsoft's Surface are expected to grow massively to span 30% of the market in 2020, up from 8% last year. Detachables are forecast to increase from 16.6 million units shipped in 2015 to 63.8 million units in 2020, becoming more popular with consumers and business users.

This is far from the first time we've heard about the popularity of 2-in-1s being set for a stellar increase, with IDC previously having stated this in figures concerning broader PC industry sales.

And in its tablet figures from back in January, TrendForce observed that Microsoft's Surface models had increased by 50% last year in terms of shipment numbers, a remarkable swing against the general downward trend of slates.

Cashing in on convertibles

Plenty of manufacturers are looking to cash in on convertibles, with for example Asus planning a big push with 2-in-1s this year, looking to up its numbers shifted by 50% to equal Microsoft's achievement.

As IDC also notes, the movement in hybrids is persuading new vendors to enter the fray.

Jean Philippe Bouchard, Research Director, Tablets, commented: "At the latest Mobile World Congress, we saw new entrants, like Alcatel and Huawei, coming from the mobile space and expanding their portfolio to address this demand for detachables.

"Everyone in the industry recognises that traditional personal computers like desktops and notebooks will potentially be replaced by detachables in the coming years and this is why we will see a lot of new products being introduced this year."

The shift towards detachable tablets will also mean the increase in popularity of larger slates (9-inch plus) and the decline of smaller tablets, and IDC notes it will also foster gains for Windows tablets at the expense of Android.

Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, commented: "Windows 10 seems to be making headway in both the PC and tablet markets, mainly driven by devices with larger screen sizes. Despite the free licensing on products under 9-inches the growth for Windows-based tablets will be primarily on devices with displays between 9 and 13-inches.

"Until we see a day where touch is introduced for Mac OS X and inroads are paved to bring Android and Chrome more closely aligned, we believe Windows remains the logical choice for detachable products."

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).