It’s not just the iPad; tablet shipments declined 8.5% in the first quarter

iPad sales continued to shrink in Apple's fiscal 2017 second quarter that ended April 1, 2017 (approximately 8.9 million tablets compared to 10 million in fiscal quarter 2016), but it’s not just Apple that’s seeing tablet sales decline. And there's a glimmer of good news for the iPad Pro.

The worldwide tablet market once again contracted in the first quarter of 2017 (1Q17) with total shipments of 36.2 million, a year-over-year decline of 8.5%, according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. The first quarter contraction marks the tenth straight quarter that tablets have experienced a decline over the same quarter a year earlier, with the previous five quarters recording double-digit drops.

The tablet market is comprised of two different product categories, which are headed in very different directions as noted by IDC in the past. Devices offering a first-party keyboard, which the research group refers to as detachable tablets, continue to grow for the most part— which is, hopefully, good news for the iPad Pro.

Many of these devices have quickly grown to resemble products that IDC refers to as traditional notebook PCs or laptops. The other product category is slate tablets (those lacking this keyboard option), which saw shipments peak in 2014 and is now in a steep decline that IDC believes will continue throughout the forecast period.

Apple experienced its 13th consecutive quarter of year-over-year shipment decline despite being the market leader in the first quarter of 2017 (1Q17). 2016 was Apple's first full year of iPad Pro shipments, which included the launch of the smaller screen lower-cost 9.7 inch version. 

This product line quickly elevated Apple to the top of the growing detachable tablet market segment, and IDC believes Apple is in a good spot to remain competitive at the top of this segment despite using a “mobile OS” while many of its competitors are entering the space with Windows-based devices.

Samsung remained the number two tablet provider despite seeing shipments decline 1.1% year over year in 1Q17. Much like Apple, Samsung continues to migrate its tablet portfolio to the detachable segment and to support this the company launched three new products at this year's Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona in February.