Tablet Category Not Thriving, But Soldiers On

    The future of the tablet sector has been the subject of much debate and, almost certainly, discomfort among those working in the ecosystem. Recently, Microsoft and Samsung introduced equipment that might affect that conversation going forward.

    Microsoft has introduced the newest version of the Surface Pro. The company didn’t give it a number. If it had, it would be The Surface Pro 4. The new version offers battery life of 13.5 hours and is 2.5 times faster than the previous model, the company says. The press release offers all the specs which are, of course, sprinkled with a variety of superlatives.

    BGR points to an important change that has nothing to do with the specs:

    The Surface Pro is no longer a tablet. Instead, it’s “the most versatile laptop.” Microsoft calls it that in the first promo for the Surface Pro. It refers to it as a laptop in its official announcement and on the product’s store page.

    The piece traces the marketing metamorphosis to last summer. Initially, the Surface Pro was compared to the iPad Pro in television commercials. Subsequently, the focus turned to a comparison to the MacBook Surface Pro 4. The piece concludes: “Fast forward to 2017, and that change is complete.”

    Samsung also has a new device, the Galaxy Book, introduced in late February and now available at Best Buy (in store and online), Amazon and The press release highlights features such as the use of Intel core i5 processors (for the 12-inch model) and Core m3 processors (for the 10.6-inch model).

    The two devices are compared at Digital Trends, which begins with a graphic that outlines the specifications. The one that sticks out most obviously is the price: The Surface Pro is quoted at $170 more ($799 versus $629). The writer assesses several categories. A number are ties, and there are wins for both devices. The bottom line is that the Microsoft entrant carries the day, though it is clearly a subjective battle:

    The 2-in-1 category grows ever more refined with each generation, and the Samsung Galaxy Book and Surface Pro for 2017 are both solid offerings facing down some tricky problems with considerable courage. The Redmond team has considerable experience in this area, and it ultimately leads to a victory for the Surface Book, at least on paper.

    This week, IDC released its quarterly projections for the entire computing universe. The news is not particularly encouraging. Total shipments are expected by the firm to shrink from 435 million last year to 405.2 million in 2021, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -1.4 percent.

    The company addressed the tablet sector from the perspective of slates and detachables. The smaller and newer detachable sector will fare well. Last year, 21.5 million units shipped; market share was 4.9 percent. In 2021, 45.9 million devices will ship, a market share of 11.3 percent.

    Slates, however, won’t thrive. IDC says that 153.4 million devices shipped last year, a market share of 35.3 percent. In 2021, 107.1 million devices will ship and market share will shrink to 26.4 percent.

    The tablet sector is shrinking and broadening at the same time. It is getting larger in terms of form factors. A wider variety of devices now fit under the category umbrella. It is getting smaller, however, as it moves to being a niche product, albeit a powerful one. The continued attention of Microsoft and Samsung – and, of course, Apple – means that it will never recede beyond a certain point.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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