Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is readying the launch of a new Surface Book that will lack what had set the device apart in the marketplace and enabled it to morph into a tablet: the detachable screen.
According to a report in the DigiTimes, the new Surface Book has entered mass production in recent weeks with sources saying Microsoft will likely announce the notebook later this month or sometime in April. Instead of a detachable screen it’s expected to have a clamshell design and starting price that is cheaper than previous models. It’s also positioned as a notebook rather than a tablet. DigiTimes reported the Surface Book will have a 13.5-inch display and will sell for around $1,000. The current range of Surface books sell for anywhere from $1,499 to $3,199, noted the report. Sources told DigiTimes that thanks to the fact that Microsoft is positioning the Surface more as a notebook and less as a tablet, it should achieve shipments of 1.2 million to 1.5 million units this year while the Surface Pro will see a 20% increase in shipments this year hitting 6 million units in 2017. (See also: Microsoft to Announce New Surface PC Wednesday.)
Tablets Are Losing Their Luster
The redesign of the consumer version of the Surface comes at a time when tablet sales are having a hard time, particularly ones with detachable screens. Market research firm IDC reported that the fourth quarter of 2016 represented the ninth consecutive quarter in which tablet shipments have declined, which also hurts Apple Inc. (AAPL) and it’s iPad.
According to IDC, vendors shipped 52.9 million tablets in the last quarter of 2016, marking a 20.1% decline from a year ago. Shipments of 174.8 million for all of 2016 were down 15.6% compared to 2015. That markets the second year in a row in which tablet shipments declined, IDC said. "The sentiment around the tablet market continues to grow stale despite a lot of talk about vendors pivoting their product portfolios toward the detachable segment," said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers.
"Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard, which IDC refers to as slate tablets, are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions and, as a result, we see the decline happening globally. We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East & Africa as well as Central & Eastern Europe with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost. Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don't equate to large revenues." During the fourth quarter, IDC found Apple saw an 18.8% decline in tablet shipments, with the iPad Pro lineup only contributing to a small percentage of shipments. The iPad Air 2 and Mini tablets accounted for the majority of the shipments.