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Tablet sales: What goes down must come up

Yes, demand for tablets will continue to plummet for the rest of the year, says IDC. The big surprise? Sales will rebound in 2018 as companies shift away from PCs.

Rochelle Garner Features Editor / News
Rochelle Garner is features editor for CNET News. A native of the mythical land known as Silicon Valley, she has written about the technology industry for more than 20 years. She has worked in an odd mix of publications -- from National Geographic magazine to MacWEEK and Bloomberg News.
Rochelle Garner
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Detachable tables, like the Microsoft Surface Pro, will drive demand among business customers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Strap in for a roller-coaster ride in tablet sales.

In a surprise to no one, the tablet market will shrink for the rest of 2016, market researcher IDC forecasts. The predicted 11.5 percent year-over-year decline is a bit of a shocker, though. Worldwide, 183.4 million tablets will have shipped by the end of 2016.

What is a surprise is IDC's forecast that sales will hit positive territory in 2018. Demand will continue to rise through 2020, with shipments reaching 194.2 million tablets that year. Credit business customers for that resurgence, especially as detachable tablets elbow computers out of the workplace.

"Windows and iOS already have solid detachable offerings and with the latest version of Android, Google will also have a horse in the race as they finally offer better multitasking support and added security features," IDC said in its quarterly forecast.

While tablets with detachable keyboards will drive demand, large-screen slate tablets will still account for the bulk of all sales. One reason for that: Smaller tablets, with screen of 9 inches or less, will be discounted so heavily they will become "a pure volume or platform play like for Amazon for instance," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director at IDC.