PC sales expected to suffer as users shift to detachables

Microsoft's Surface Pro and similar devices are expected to lead the market growth

Global shipments of personal computing devices, which include traditional PCs and tablets, are expected to decline through to 2021, as more customers shift towards detachable 2-in-1s.

The entire personal computing device (PCD) market is expected to shrink over the next five years, representing a compound annual growth rate of -1.7%, according to analyst firm IDC.

Traditional desktops and data centre workstations are anticipated to see a 3.5% drop in shipments over the period, down from 103 million in 2016 to 86 million in 2021.

The Worldwide Quarterly Device report also revealed that stand-alone slate-style tablets are expected to decline from 153 million to 108 million, a drop of almost 7%. Notebooks and mobile workstations, which account for almost 41% of the market, are due to see only nominal growth of 0.7%.

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However, figures indicate a clear shift away from traditional devices towards the increasingly popular detachable tablets, such as Microsoft's Surface Pro range and Acer's Switch 5, which offer a hybrid experience of both tablet and laptop. Even Apple is beginning to shift its stance by marketing its latest iPad range as a tablet and keyboard setup, rather than a stand-alone screen.

Sales of detachable devices are expected to surge by over 14%, from 21.5 million in 2016 to 42 million in 2021, representing the only real area of growth for the personal device market. Despite growing popularity, detachable devices will only account for 11% of shipped devices in 2021, remaining the smallest, albeit fastest growing sector of personal computing.

"Looking at the PCD market collectively can be challenging because of all the different product category trends that are unfolding," said Ryan Reith, program vice president at IDC. "When looking at tablets we continue to expect that category to decline as the appeal of slate devices diminishes and life cycles for these devices look more like those of PCs 4-5 years ago."

"The good news for this space is that both consumers and commercial buyers are opening up to Windows 10" he added, "and we are already at a point where Windows detachables represents more than 50% of shipments in the category."

Analysts have left some room for deviation in growth, although this is largely dependent on the uptake of gaming and the need to purchase high powered rigs to support virtual reality devices, but even a best case scenario would produce only limited growth.

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