Tablet sales were down last year across the board, but there was one bright spot (I mean, besides the success of the Fire tablet).
IDC reported that the detachable tablet, or two-in-one tablet, segment boomed last year with the introduction of the iPad Pro. This segment has been around since before Asus introduced the first eeePad Transformer in 2011, but it has always been a footnote in the stats rather than a segment worth reporting.
And that changed with the launch of the iPad Pro. iDC reported on Monday that shipments of detachable tablets reached an all-time high of 8.1 million devices sold last year.
According to IDC, Apple sold 2 million iPad Pro tablets last year, easily besting the 1.6 million Surface tablets sold by Microsoft. And to put that into perspective, Apple sold around 50 million iPads last year (including the iPad Pro, of course) out of a total market of 206 million tablets sold.
Those numbers are still miniscule, but that hasn't stopped IDC from talking them up. "One of the biggest reasons why detachables are growing so fast is because end users are seeing those devices as PC replacements," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, Research Director, Tablets at IDC. "Despite lukewarm reviews, the iPad Pro was the clear winner this season as it was the top selling detachable, surpassing notable entries from Microsoft and other PC vendors."
They are right to talk up the iPad Pro; it shipped in November, meaning that Apple shipped more tablets in about a month and a half than Microsoft shipped over the entire year.
And they're probably right about how consumers view two-in-one tablets. I can recall in 2011 that I was the only one of the seven eeePad Transformer owners that I knew who had also sprung for the keyboard dock.
No one else was buying the KB because they saw the device as a tablet, and not a two-in-one. Similarly, hardly anyone is buying the sub-$100 and sub-$200 two-in one tablets, even though they are decent tablets for the price.
The RCA Viking Pro, for example, is a 10" tablet with dock that sells for $80. It is an awesome tablet for the price (although I can also report that the KB dock on my unit is about as useless as the KB cover on the Surface tablet).
Similarly, last year E-Fun introduced a couple sub-$200 two-in one tablets which come close to matching the abilities of a $500 detachable from only a couple years before, and yet they're not flying off the shelves.
It's almost as if the low-end market is divided between true tablets and Chromebooks, with all the two-in-one buyers going for higher price tiers, wouldn't you say?