The tablet market has declined over the past year, and trend will continue through the end of the year, according to recent data from IDC.
Sales of tablets and hybrids fell 11.5 percent, with an all-time year-over-year low of just 183.4 million units sold. But IDC is optimistic about the future, predicting "positive growth" in 2018 that will continue to rise over the following two years, potentially reaching 194.2 million units sold by 2020.
The future is hybrid
Hybrid devices like the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4 are shaping the market, and pushing innovation from other tech companies as they try to keep pace. The market has already seen a slew of enterprise-ready hybrids, and if IDC's data suggests that the popularity of these devices will only grow in the coming years.
Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, says that detachable tablets will continue to take some of the market share from traditional PC sales. He points to the growing market of Windows and iOS tablets, which are designed to replace traditional laptops and also points to a potential uptick in Android tablets after the most recent software release.
"Windows and iOS already have solid detachable offerings and with the latest version of Android, Google will also have a horse in the race as they finally offer better multitasking support and added security features," he says in a press release from IDC.
Detachable tablets have a big future
IDC also predicts a shift in the type of devices people will purchase as more consumers and business leaders gravitate towards detachable tablets. IDC predicts that, by the end of 2016, 85 percent of tablet sales will be from smaller, slate models, but that by 2020 that number will drop to 68-percent as hybrid devices gain traction.
That shift will also involve more consumers and business users turning to larger tablet devices with more generous displays. As of 2016, 55 percent of all tablets are 9-inches or smaller, but IDC predicts that by 2020, that will drop towards 40 percent.
One indicator of this shift, according to Jean Phillippe Bouchard, research director at IDC, is an uptick in "aggressive price points," which leave "little room for revenues outside of a pure volume or platform play like Amazon for instance."
You can also expect to see Windows tablets gain a stronger foothold by 2020. In fact, Windows tablets held just under 9 percent of the market in 2015, which jumped to around 11 percent for 2016. And IDC predicts that by 2020, Windows tablets will hold just over 19 percent of the market. Android tablets are expected to drop from around 66 percent of the market in 2016 to just under 58 percent of the market in 2020.
Meanwhile, Apple's iOS tablets are expected to stay mostly the same, hovering around 22 percent for 2016 all the way through 2020.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.