Detachable laptops

IDC sees gains for detachable, 2-in1 devices, credits Windows 10

But Android and iOS will factor in as well

Detachable tablet devices -- better known as 2-in-1's -- have become the latest rage in computing.

With a detachable, users can connect a tablet and keyboard to substitute for a laptop or use the tablet separately. Analyst firm IDC recently started calling the hybrid devices "detachables" after using the term "2-in-1's" for two years.

The arrival of Windows 10 last July has helped drive the trend, IDC said Tuesday.

Microsoft -- with its latest Surface Pro 4 -- and a slew of other vendors are offering new detachable models running Windows 10. Several models were launched last month at Mobile World Congress, although prices and availability weren't always included in the details.

At the event in Barcelona, Alcatel introduced the Plus 10, (starting at $651, although U.S. availability hasn't been announced); Huawei, rolled out the MateBook; and Lenovo touts the IdeaPad Miix 310.

Samsung launched the Galaxy TabPro S detachable in January, although it hasn't gone on sale in the U.S. yet. With Windows 10 Pro and its detachable keyboard bundled in, it is expected to cost about $1,200.

There are also low-cost Android detachables hitting the market, like the RCA Viking Pro, running Android 5.0, which costs just $130 or $99 at WalMart (Amazon price).

Apple's iPad Pro running iOS starts at $799 (Amazon price) and connects to a new Smart Keyboard for an added $169 (Amazon price). Together, IDC counts the two as a detachable computer.

As slate-style tablets fade in popularity, detachables will begin to take their place, IDC said Tuesday. For all of 2016, the research firm predicted a near 6% decline for all tablets compared to 2015. After this year, the tablet market is expected to see a resurgence with the help of detachables, jumping from 16.6 million tablets shipped in 2015 to 63.8 million in 2020.

"The reason people want a detachable is that they want a bigger tablet screen with a keyboard," said IDC analyst Jean Phillippe Bouchard, in an interview. "People want the performance you get with a larger screen and keyboard, not just the tablet for browsing and consuming of content." Even so, a tablet without the keyboard can be the simplest way to view videos and other content.

Bouchard also noted that desktops and laptops are considered "super old," with buyers looking for something new. Another factor in the emergence of detachables is that the slate tablet form factor has by now saturated the market.

"Everyone in the industry recognizes that traditional personal computers like desktops and notebooks will potentially be replaced by detachables in coming years and this is why we will see a lot of new products being introduced this year," Bouchard said in a statement.

The timing of the Windows 10 launch -- coupled with the rollout of the Surface Pro 4 -- has also been perfect for attracting other vendors, he added. "We're expecting a lot of adoption of Windows 10," Bouchard said.

The Surface Pro 4 starts at $899 (Amazon price), plus $129 (Amazon price) for a basic Surface Pro 4 Type cover that doubles as a keyboard.

Still, "Android is not out of the race," Bouchard said. The Pixel C from Google, starting at $499, runs Android 6.0. and features an optional Pixel C keyboard for an added $149.

Bouchard and IDC analyst colleague Ryan Reith are curious to see how and when Google will align Android with Chrome, which could result in more detachable products from Google. Also, touch could come someday to the OS X, allowing Apple to expand its offering of detachables.

Until Apple and Google take more such steps, Windows will remain the logical choice for most detachables, Reith said.

IDC predicted Tuesday that Android will have about 18% of the total detachables market in 2016 as well as in 2020, while Windows will grab the majority of the market -- 53% -- this year. That figure will jump to nearly 75% in 2020.

Apple's iOS is expected to take 28% of the detachable market in 2016, then decline to just 7.3% in 2020.

IDC said detachables made up 8% of the overall market in 2015 and will comprise 30% in 2020.


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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