Consumers have had their fill of tablets.
The lack of urgency to buy new ones means that in 2016 global sales of tablets will fall for the second straight year, market researcher IDC said Thursday.
Tablet shipments are likely to sag by 9.6 percent this year from 2015, a near perfect echo of the 10 percent drop registered in 2015 from the year before, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker forecast. The market will stay in the doldrums through next year before returning to growth in 2018 and beyond, with detachable units -- that is, laptop-tablet hybrids -- riding in as the white knight.
For 2017, IDC expects tablet sales to fall by just 0.5 percent. Sales are forecast to return to the black with growth of 2.1 percent for 2018 and 3.3 percent for 2019.
The problem with the current tablet market: Consumers just don't see enough reason to replace the slate-style devices they're used to, according to IDC. Instead, they've often been buying large-screen phones, or simply holding onto what they've got, sharing the tablets with family members.
Detachable units are gaining in popularity, IDC said, because they can function as productivity-centric replacements for both conventional tablets and laptops.
"The detachable tablet segment is also considered by some manufacturers, like Apple, as a way to spur replacement cycles of the existing slate tablet installed base," Jean Philippe Bouchard, IDC tablet research director, said in a statement.
Microsoft's Surface Pro lineup has won over many customers looking for detachable units, while Apple's iPad Pro has been a top seller, IDC reported in April.
IDC expects detachables to account for 31 percent of the tablet market in 2020, up from 16 percent currently. But sales of traditional slate tablets are still expected to surpass 100 million each year over the next four years. The lower price of tablets with screen sizes less than 9 inches should continue to draw in a healthy volume of customers, especially in emerging markets, IDC said.