Apple continues to dominate the tablet market… but for the first time since the original iPad launched in 2010, that market is shrinking rather than growing.

That’s one of the key takeaways from two different reports out this week. The other key point? There is one part of the tablet market that’s growing: 2-in-1 tablets with detachable keyboards.

Strategy Analytics and IDC have both released reports looking at tablet shipments in 2015.  Their numbers aren’t identical — because this sort of thing’s not an exact science when many companies don’t provide detailed shipment or sales numbers.

But the reports agree on a few things:

  • Tablet shipments are down (by about 8 to 10 percent from the previous year).
  • Amazon’s cheap tablets have helped the company pick up market share, although it still has just around 3 percent of the market.
  • Detachable shipments are way up… but they still account for a rather small portion of the tablet market, which is why overall shipments are still down.

2015 saw the released of the Microsoft Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 detachables, as well as the iPad Pro. These are all devices aimed at productivity: you can run multiple apps at once, view content on a relatively large display, and use a keyboard, pen, or other input methods in addition to your fingertips.

sa chart

It seems like the big losers are tablets that have much of the same functionality as smartphones. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tablet space is reaching a saturation point: there aren’t as many first-time buyers as there used to be, and existing owners don’t feel the need to upgrade every year.

But 2-in-1 devices have the advantage of combining features of a notebook and tablet, which means that if these devices continue to take off, tablet sales might just eat into traditional notebook sales.

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