In 2010, Apple’s Steve Jobs welcomed the post-PC era when it introduced the iPad.
Now in 2017, PCs are still around and on their way to recovery, while slate-style tablets are struggling. Apple remains the top tablet seller, but its shipments are diving, and Android tablets aren’t as hot as they used to be.
Unlike its heyday, tablets aren’t expected to be huge presence at this year’s Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. Lenovo and Samsung are launching some Android tablets, but more attention is being heaped on Windows 10 2-in-1 PCs that can be tablets and laptops.
Where Android has faltered, Windows is now taking over. Many people are replacing tablets with multipurpose Windows 2-in-1 PCs.
Phablets are also taking over for tablets, especially in Asian countries.
Many device makers are cutting Android tablet offerings. Dell has dropped Android tablets, while other PC makers like HP, Acer and Asus have fewer Android offerings than previous years. The PC makers are instead pushing out higher-priced Windows 10 2-in-1s.
Over the last five years, analyst firms made bold predictions that tablets would overtake PC shipments, but that hasn’t happened. In 2014, Gartner predicted that tablet shipments would overtake PC shipments in 2015.
According to IDC, tablet shipments in 2016 totaled 174 million units, declining by 15.6 percent compared to 2015. Apple’s iPad woes continued, with unit shipments totaling 42.6 million units, a decline of 14.2 percent. Second-placed Samsung shipped 20.6 million units, declining by 20.5 million units,
A price battle also brought the value of tablets down. Low-cost tablets from Amazon, Lenovo and little-known Chinese brands can be purchased for under $200.
Lenovo is one of the few companies that is growing in tablets. Its tablet shipments in 2016 totaled 3.7 million, declining by 1.8 percent, but grew in the fourth quarter of last year by 14.8 percent. Tablet shipments are growing fast, said Yuan Yuanqing, CEO of Lenovo, during an earnings call this month.
At MWC, the company introduced new Tab 4 Android tablets with 8- and 10-inch screens for entertainment. But headlining Lenovo’s product launches are three Windows 2-in-1s—the Miix 320 with a detachable screen and the Yoga 720 and 520, which keyboard attachments to the base.
Wholesale changes are needed in Android tablets, and it needs to re-evolve to fit modern computing needs, said Jeff Meredith, vice president and general manager for the Android and Chrome Computing Business Group at Lenovo.
“We’re facing a product that needs to redefine itself in an environment in which its core advantages are being squeezed in from” 2-in-1s and phablets, Meredith said.
Meredith’s actively pushing a rethinking of its tablet lines. For example, its Yoga Book device—which comes with Android or Windows— offers a second screen that can be used as a virtual keyboard or panel on which to write or draw.
One innovative feature in Android tablets could be Google’s Tango, an augmented reality platform that Lenovo has put on its Phab 2 Pro smartphone. Meredith declined to comment on whether it would put Tango in Android tablets.
Also at MWC, Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab S3 tablet with Android, but more focus was placed on the Windows 10-based Galaxy Book 2-in-1 with 10-inch and 12-inch screens.
Samsung assumes that 60 percent of the detachable 2-in-1 market have Windows, and there’s an opportunity for 140 percent year-over-year growth, said Eric McCarty, vice president of mobile product marketing for Samsung Electronics America. There’s also a bigger need for productivity on the go, and the Galaxy Book devices are targeted at office workers.