In a quarter where year-on-year notebook shipment growth slowed in EMEA to 26% (from over 40% in Q1), growth for tablet PCs of 25% may not look too bad, but the market is far from booming. Notebooks are still out-shipping tablets by more than 100 to 1 and the ratio is not decreasing. “There is clear demand for increased workforce mobility. We continue to see it in the sales of notebooks, handhelds and smart phones,” said Mike Welch, Canalys vice president, “But the tablet PC is not riding that wave nearly as well as it should, particularly outside the US, where customer requirements, for example in language recognition and country-specific vertical applications are much more fragmented.”
HP was the tablet market leader in Q2, though its share fell slightly from a year ago as Acer, FSC and Toshiba all outpaced it in growth terms. Of the leading vendors, FSC is the only one to offer pure slate devices as well as convertible/modular systems with built-in keyboards, and has many years of pen computing experience behind it. Indeed Canalys estimates that not only does FSC continue to dominate the slate segment with more than 50% share, it was also the only major slate vendor to show year-on-year growth in Q2 (of 11%) in a market that declined 45%.
Conversely, the convertible/modular segment, which includes all products with built-in keyboards that can be removed or folded behind the screen as well as be used like a regular notebook, nearly doubled compared to last year and represented around 80% of all tablet shipments. “The middle two quarters last year were particularly weak for the keyboard-based models,” added analyst Rachel Lashford, “So while the growth is positive, it would be premature to read too much into it. If that kind of increase is maintained or bettered in both Q3 and Q4 this year then it will be a surer sign of growing acceptance of the form factor.”
“At the heart of the problem is that, for all the positive feedback that comes from users once they have had hands-on experience of tablets, mainstream business IT buyers will make a simple calculation,” said Lashford, “Do the extra benefits justify the price premium over a comparable notebook? With today’s price differentials and the lack of applications, the answer for most remains a no. These will both change, assuming hardware and software vendors remain committed, but not quickly.”