IDC Predicts That Surface and Its Clones Will Be 30 Percent of the Tablet Market By 2020

IDC Predicts That Surface and Its Clones Will Be 30 Percent of the Tablet Market By 2020

The market researchers at IDC this week claimed that detachable tablets—or what I think of as “Surface clones”—will experience big growth in the next few years, jumping to 30 percent of the overall tablet market by 2020.

That’s good “news,” of course, and an indication that Microsoft really has created (or at least formalized) a new device category with its Surface lineup. But there are a few caveats worth noting here upfront:

First, this is a prediction, not a fact. And second, the source of this prediction is IDC, which once infamously claimed that Windows phone sales would exceed those of iPhone by 2017.

All that said, I actually think IDC is onto something this this, and you can see evidence of this trend in all the Surface clones that Microsoft’s PC maker competitors—sorry, *partners* have released in the past year. And in the fact that detachables are the only part of the tablet market that’s actually growing: As IDC notes, tablet sales are expected to fall in 2016 by 6 percent to 195 million units.

IDC refers to this new market as a “change,” with device makers moving from single-function slates to more versatile form factors. And this change corresponds with a move to the larger-screen devices (9 inches and up) that make sense in a hybrid PC usage scenario.

This move to detachable tablets is good news on a number of fronts.

Consider Windows first. (Though, again, I look at these numbers and cringe when I think of IDC’s similar predictions for Windows phones.) Between now and 2020, iOS’s share of the detachable tablet market is expected to fall from 28.5 percent to just 7.3 percent, while Windows grows from 53.3 percent to 74.6 percent. (Android holds steady at about 18 percent during this time frame.)

“This momentous shift in form factor will bring along the first significant impact of Windows-based devices that the tablet market has seen,” IDC’s Ryan Reith says. “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.”

Bravo to that.

And then there’s average selling price (ASP): Detachable tablets are much more expensive than standalone slate tablets on average, and that trend continues over time. So as more and more of the tablet market goes detachable, the ASP for the overall market goes up. (Prices do go down over time in both market segments, but only a little bit, with detachables averaging about $650 today and dropping to a bit below $600 by 2020.)

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