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In the last quarter of 2015 over 14 million tablets were shipped to Western Europe as the market volume declined 10.1% YoY, according to International Data Corp. (IDC). In value terms, however, the decline was only 1.8% YoY, thanks to growing penetration of detachable tablets boosted by an increasing supply of devices with wide-ranging specs catering for the diverse needs of consumers and professionals. In the last quarter of the year, 2.6 million tablets with a detachable keyboard were shipped, up from just over 800,000 units a year ago, accounting now for almost 20% of the overall tablet market.
"As the detachable tablets available on the market become more powerful and better suited to business requirements, this form factor has been successfully adopted by professionals and executives as it perfectly addresses their mobility needs and is increasingly seen as a notebook replacement," said Daniel Goncalves, research analyst, IDC EMEA Personal Computing.
Microsoft established itself as the leader in this segment in 2015, but Q4 has seen Apple entering the market with the iPad Pro and quickly capturing a good share. "Several industry players have recently launched or announced new detachable designs that in 2016 will compete in the commercial space and leverage the large opportunity created by enterprise mobility," said Marta Fiorentini, research manager, IDC EMEA Personal Computing. "The arrival in Europe of these new designs based on Windows 10 and a more powerful generation of processors should support commercial shipments in the coming quarters as IT departments focus on increased security features, application costs, and device and applications management." A supply increase of affordable detachable tablets is also anticipated in the home segment where vendors have been adjusting their portfolios to counteract poor demand for slates. Interestingly, if the growing Windows detachable market is combined with declining sales of notebook PCs the client device in Western Europe, market would be flat.
On the consumer side, preparations for Black Friday and the early Christmas promotions disrupted traditional seasonality trends as a number of vendors brought forward their shipments to the final weeks of 3Q. The exception in the quarter was Amazon's low-priced 7in. device, which shipped almost a million units and increased pressure on entry-level and no-name products. Strong appeal from other consumer technologies, such as wearables, also dampened demand as users looked at alternatives for their Christmas presents. In the commercial segment, performances varied across geographies as macroeconomic factors and the varying levels of digital and mobility readiness in European countries influenced the pace of slate deployments.
The new form factor mix helped increase market value. "This is especially important in consumer," said Fiorentini, "where slate tablet prices have been declining for a while without necessarily rekindling demand. This quarter, the danger of a sharp drop in value was very real but thanks to detachables, the average market price increased by 3.8% YoY. New products in the high-end segment like the iPad Pro contributed to the hike." Commercial ASPs also increased by a healthy 26%, due not only to higher detachable penetration but also to the higher price tags attached to slates specifically designed for commercial purposes and particularly for vertical applications.
In terms of vendors, Apple ended the year as market leader despite a strong contraction in iPad volumes which was only partially offset by shipments of the new iPad Pro. Samsung declined less than the overall market as it continues to target all market segments and on an annual basis strengthened its second position and closed the gap with Apple. Amazon capitalized on seasonality and climbed to third place thanks to its Kindle Fire line, particularly the 7in. device sold in packs of six. Lenovo slipped to fourth place despite out-performing the market, but ended 2015 in third position while it prepares to strengthen its detachable offering. Asus finished fifth in 4Q, with the vendor focusing on profitable growth and increasing its foothold in products with higher specifications.